Thursday, September 3, 2015

Churchill and Swift Creek outrun the storm at the Swift Creek Invitational

Alyson ChurchillLeon County Schools opened the middle school cross country season on Wednesday afternoon, 2 September 2015, with the Swift Creek Invitational at Apalachee Regional Park. Swift Creek's Alyson Churchill edged Emily Molen of Deerlake for the top spot in the girls' two mile, 12:35 to 12:38. Led by Churchill's win, Swift Creek took the team title with 26 points. The boys' two mile, scheduled after the girls' race, had to be canceled because of lightning.


In North America cross country season is in the autumn. This is concurrent with football season, making cross country running one of the most overlooked sports in the United States, at least in the South. Most of the meagre attention afforded cross country goes to the sport at the high school and college level, leaving little for middle school running. But middle school is where many athletes are exposed to cross country for the first time. Tallahassee has produced more than its share of state champion cross country runners, and many of those athletes started their career in middle school. Still other sons and daughters of Tallahassee went on from middle school cross country to compete for NCAA schools.


If you were to believe the National Hurricane Center, it's a wonder that the Swift Creek Invitational happened at all. A week before the meet, there was always at least one computer model that showed Tropical Storm Erika visiting the Big Bend as a hurricane on race day. Even after the mountains of Hispaniola and Cuba reduced the storm to a patch of stormclouds blundering about the Gulf of Mexico, the NHC insisted that there was a 10% chance that Erika would regenerate into a tropical cyclone. In the end Tallahassee saw no more than a thunderstorm on Wednesday. However, a bolt of lightning can ruin your day just as thoroughly as a Category 5 hurricane.


Megan ChurchillThe sun was still shining at 6:00 PM when the girls started. Swift Creek eighth-grader Alyson Churchill immediately took the lead. Throughout the 2014 season, Churchill had consistently finished second to Deerlake's Lawton Campbell. This year, though, Campbell had moved on to Chiles High, and Churchill was determined to make the most of her absence. Deerlake eighth-grader Emily Molen trailed Churchill by more than ten seconds during parts of the race. As the finish line approached Molen began to narrow that gap, but Churchill still scampered across first in 12:35, with Molen second in 12:38. Swift Creek added a 13:17 third-place finish from Megan Churchill and a 13:24 fourth-place showing from Chase Merrick. Deerlake answered with Gabrielle O'Sullivan (6th, 14:32) and Lauren Cook (7th, 15:06). However, once Swift Creek brought Chloe Molinaro (8th, 15:26) and Lauren Whittier (10th, 15:42) across the finish line, the Wolves had a mathematically unbeatable total of 26 points and the top spot in a field of six teams. Deerlake took second with 42 points. Led by eighth-grader Caitlin Wilkey (5th, 13:43), Montford placed third in the team standings with 66 points. 98 girls representing nine schools finished the race.


The boys were already on the starting line when a flash of lightning illuminated the sky north of Apalachee Regional Park. After that the only running was a dash for shelter.


The next event in Leon County's Middle School Cross Country season is the Fort Braden Run at Fort Braden Community Park on Wednesday, 9 September 2015, starting at 6:00 PM. Weather permitting, both the boys and the girls will get to race.


2015 Swift Creek Invitational Team Standings, GirlsSwift Creek girls cross country team
  1. Swift Creek, 26
  2. Deerlake, 42
  3. Montford, 66
  4. Raa, 99
  5. Fairview, 122
  6. Cobb, 156

Top Ten Girls, 2015 Swift Creek Invitational
  1. 12:34.24 ~ Alyson Churchill (Swift Creek) 8Emily Molen
  2. 12:37.44 ~ Emily Molen (Deerlake) 8
  3. 13:16.19 ~ Megan Churchill (Swift Creek) 8
  4. 13:23.50 ~ Chase Merrick (Swift Creek) 8
  5. 13:42.99 ~ Caitlin Wilkey (Montford) 8
  6. 14:31.22 ~ Gabrielle O'Sullivan (Deerlake) 8
  7. 15:05.68 ~ Lauren Cook (Deerlake) 7
  8. 15:25.50 ~ Chloe Molinaro (Swift Creek) 8
  9. 15:41.55 ~ Leah Mazur (Fairview) 7
  10. 15:41.75 ~ Lauren Whittier (Swift Creek) 7

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