Sunday, August 28, 2016

Alyson Churchill meets the Challenge, runs 18:47

In 2014 Wakulla's Haleigh Martin won the high school girls 5K at the Cougar Cross Country Challenge, pulling away from runner-up Caroline Willis of Maclay in the final kilometer. At the 2015 Cougar Cross Country Challenge it was Willis' turn to win, while Martin finished farther back in seventh. On 27 August 2016, though, neither Willis nor Martin could keep up with Lincoln High frosh Alyson Churchill at the Cougar Challenge. Churchill stunned the field in Tallahassee, Florida's Phipps Park that Saturday morning, racing the 3.1-mile course in 18:47.

Alyson Churchill
Alyson Churchill

It was the second Saturday in a row that Churchill, Martin, and Willis had raced at Phipps Park. The previous week they had done a pre-season run in the Miller Landing Madness 5K, where Churchill had gone 19:20. That was on a different course, though.


"I have heard that it is pretty hilly," Churchill commented on the Cougar Challenge course after her run at Miller Landing Madness. "I'm hoping to get a better time there."


As Churchill noted, the 5K course at the Cougar Cross Country Challenge isn't flat. Phipps Park is located on a slope going down to the shore of Lake Jackson, with elevation differences in the park of over 100 feet. During the 5K race, the runners make two descents to the lakeshore, with two corresponding ascents. The footing isn't the best, either. The grass, wet with dew, is trimmed no lower than ankle height. Where no grass grows, the path has been sprinkled with coarse gravel. It isn't a track. It isn't a well-groomed course like the one at nearby Apalachee Regional Park. But it is where runners at the Cougar Challenge have tested themselves in recent years.

2016 Cougar Cross Country Challenge
The start of the high school girls' 5K

The high school girls got the course at 8:00 AM, after runners in an earlier community race had finished with it. Running her first race in Lincoln colors, Churchill lost little time in taking the lead. At the mile mark she was so far ahead that it looked like she was out for a solo training run along Lake Jackson. Half a minute behind, Willis and Martin dueled for second. Another five seconds back, Chiles High junior Ana Wallace led a group in pursuit of Willis and Martin. No one was catching Churchill, though. The Lincoln frosh continued to lengthen her lead. Martin pulled away from Willis. Then with just over a kilometer to go, Wallace overtook Willis.


"It was around two or two-and-a-half miles, before the last uphill," said Wallace. "I was expecting to be closer to Alyson Churchill, but she had a really good race. I wasn't ready to go that hard. Haleigh Martin also had a good race."

Caroline Willis, Haleigh Martin
Caroline Willis, Haleigh Martin

Churchill flew up the last major uphill, then 400 meters later crossed the finish line in 18:47, the fastest time ever recorded by a high school girl at the Cougar Challenge. Martin was second in 19:49 and Wallace third in 20:07. Willis held off a late charge from Chiles sophomore Emily Culley to take fourth, 20:35 to 20:40.


Wallace and Culley were joined in the top ten by their Timberwolf teammate, Chiles frosh Caitlin Wilkey. When Chiles junior Erin Phelps (12th, 21:33) and Chiles frosh Emily Molen (13th, 21:39) had crossed the finish line, the Timberwolves had 40 points and the team title. Led by Willis, Maclay took second with 93 points. Behind the tenth-place, 21:19, finish of sophomore Katherine Resavage, Leon High placed third with 93 points, just ahead of the fourth-place total of 95 points scored by Churchill's Lincoln team.

Ana Wallace
Ana Wallace

Team Standings, High School Girls, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Chiles, 40
  2. Maclay, 72
  3. Leon, 93
  4. Lincoln, 95
  5. Gulf Breeze, 144
  6. Southland, 176
  7. Tift County, 262
  8. Valdosta, 311
  9. Wakulla, 318
  10. Suwannee, 319
  11. Florida State, 338
  12. Aucilla Christian, 340
  13. John Paul II Catholic, 347
  14. Thomas County Central, 362
  15. Westover, 385
  16. Bainbridge, 398
  17. Rickards, 414
  18. Lowndes, 427
  19. Franklin County, 540
  20. Grace Christian, 597

Top Ten High School Girls, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 18:46.87 ~ Alyson Churchill (Lincoln) 9
  2. 19:48.42 ~ Haleigh Martin (Wakulla) 12
  3. 20:06.83 ~ Ana Wallace (Chiles) 11
  4. 20:34.38 ~ Caroline Willis (Maclay) 12
  5. 20:39.64 ~ Emily Culley (Chiles) 10
  6. 20:58.12 ~ Molly McCann (Maclay) 12
  7. 21:07.04 ~ Caitlin Wilkey (Chiles) 9
  8. 21:09.21 ~ Lindsay James (Maclay) 8
  9. 21:09.98 ~ Emily Golden (Tift County) 9
  10. 21:18.13 ~ Katherine Resavage (Leon) 10

There was no lonely leader at the mile mark in the high school boys' 5K. A lead pack of over a dozen athletes thundered through the end of the first mile together. Going up the first major uphill, though, the story started to change.


"Right after we finished the first big hill we started to break apart," recalled Chiles junior Matthew Newland. "Then there were four of us."

High School Boys' 5K
Early in the high school boys' 5K

The four were Newland, Chiles junior Michael Phillips, Leon senior Matthew Cashin, and Lowndes senior Kaleb Wolfenden. By the start of the final uphill climb, Phillips and Newland had opened a gap on the other two runners.


"Going up the last hill I thought Cashin was closer," said Newland.

Mile Mark
The leaders at the mile mark

He wasn't. Phillips broke away from Newland and raced home for the win in 16:44. Newland took second in 16:58. Cashin was third in 17:07, just ahead of Wolfenden in fourth at 17:10.


Phillips and Newland weren't the only Timberwolves in the top ten; Chiles also had senior Alex Gruenwald finish fifth in 17:35 and senior Zach Jackson place tenth in 17:54. When Timberwolf sophomore Samuel Mountin came home fourteenth in 17:59, Chiles had 32 points and the win. Led by senior Bryce Cole (9th, 17:47) Wakulla placed second with 107 points. The Leon High boys, winners of the meet the previous three years, were third with 110 points. Maclay was fourth with 113.

Chiles Boys
The Chiles High boys' cross country team

Of those top four boys' teams, Chiles won the state title in 2014. Leon has also contended for the state championship in class 4A, and Maclay in class 1A. For class 2A Wakulla, though, battling for the top spot among those other three programs is a new experience. Their coach, Paul Hoover, was pleased with their performance but still cautious.


"It's early," said Coach Hoover. "I'll feel good if we're still in the thick of it in two months. But they did a good job. They worked hard this summer, eight of them went to training camp with us, and I'm proud of them."


It was early. The state meet was still ahead on 5 November 2016, and there was a lot of running and racing left before then. Every step of it was a step to be savored.


Team Standings, High School Boys, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Chiles, 32
  2. Wakulla, 107
  3. Leon, 110
  4. Maclay, 113
  5. Lincoln, 163
  6. Valdosta, 227
  7. Gulf Breeze, 230
  8. Cottondale, 233
  9. Lowndes, 243
  10. Thomas County Central, 302
  11. Bainbridge, 324
  12. Tift County, 351
  13. Suwannee, 369
  14. Southland, 413
  15. Westover, 428
  16. Aucilla Christian, 485
  17. John Paul II Catholic, 485
  18. Grace Christian, 496
  19. Brookwood, 551
  20. Escambia, 576
  21. The Rock, 606
  22. Franklin County, 620

Top Ten High School Boys, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 16:43.68 ~ Michael Phillips (Chiles) 11
  2. 16:57.97 ~ Matthew Newland (Chiles) 11
  3. 17:06.33 ~ Matthew Cashin (Leon) 12
  4. 17:09.99 ~ Kaleb Wolfenden (Lowndes) 12
  5. 17:34.77 ~ Alexander Gruenewald (Chiles) 12
  6. 17:38.17 ~ Colter Foster (Leon) 12
  7. 17:41.76 ~ Clayburn Milford (Maclay) 10
  8. 17:42.81 ~ Jake Mazziotta (Maclay) 12
  9. 17:46.09 ~ Bryce Cole (Wakulla) 12
  10. 17:53.15 ~ Zachary Jackson (Chiles) 12


Cougar Cross Country Challenge High School Winners
2006 - 2016

Girls
DateTeam ChampIndividual Champ
16 September 2006Maclay, 2320:44, Laura Hempel (Rickards)
10 September 2007Maclay, 1820:36, Jana Stolting (Maclay)
15 September 2008Maclay, 3920:18, Jana Stolting (Maclay)
14 September 2009Maclay, 4321:05, Stefanie Kurgatt (Maclay)
2 October 2010West Florida Tech, 2719:23, Stefanie Kurgatt (Maclay)
8 October 2011Lincoln, 4921:16, Savana Osterbye (FSUS)
2012No meet held in 2012
31 August 2013Leon, 2720:35, Madison Harris (Wakulla)
6 September 2014Leon, 4421:09, Haleigh Martin (Wakulla)
29 August 2015Fort Walton Beach, 2421:16, Caroline Willis (Maclay)
27 August 2016Chiles, 4018:47, Alyson Churchill (Lincoln)
Boys
DateTeam ChampIndividual Champ
16 September 2006Lincoln, 4216:56, Joseph Franklin (Godby)
10 September 2007Maclay, 2317:18, Whitney Strickland (NFCS)
15 September 2008Niceville, 3617:02, Whitney Strickland (NFCS)
14 September 2009Maclay, 4717:27, Patrick Swain (Maclay)
2 October 2010Lincoln, 5216:10, Jacob Slupecki (Lincoln)
8 October 2011Lincoln, 6316:55, Stanley Linton (Wakulla)
2012No meet held in 2012
31 August 2013Leon, 3416:47, Sukhi Khosla (Leon)
6 September 2014Leon, 1516:42, Sukhi Khosla (Leon)
29 August 2015Leon, 5216:38, Adam Wallenfelsz (Leon)
27 August 2016Chiles, 3216:44, Michael Phillips (Chiles)


After the high school competition had ended with Chiles High sweeping the girls' and boys' team titles, it was time for the middle school races. Allison Drummond--an eighth-grader at Oak View Middle School in Newberry, Florida--ran away from the field in the girls' 3K, running 11:47 and winning by a margin of well over 200 meters. Albany, Georgia Southland Academy seventh-grader Jadie Burrell took second in 12:38, and Maclay School sixth-grader Ella Porcher was third in 12:43.

Allison Drummond
Allison Drummond

Porcher was one of three Maclay athletes in the top ten, including sixth-grader Sophia Paredes (6th, 12:57) and Lillian Phipps (10th, 13:40). However, Maclay's Tallahassee rival, Holy Comforter, also put three runners in the top ten--sixth-grader Camille Resavage (5th, 12:54), eighth-grader Katelyn Dessi (7th, 13:13), and seventh-grader Kate Smith (8th, 13:21). When the scores were totaled, both Holy Comforter and Maclay had 44 points. The title came down to the sixth runner on each team, and seventh-grader Kate Krizner (19th, 14:19) gave Holy Comforter the win. Tift placed third with 85 points.


Team Standings, Middle School Girls, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Holy Comforter, 44
  2. Maclay, 44
  3. Tift, 85
  4. Southland, 111
  5. Valdosta, 123
  6. Thomas County, 129
  7. Bainbridge, 161

Top Ten Middle School Girls, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 11:46.10 ~ Allison Drummond (Oak View) 8
  2. 12:37.74 ~ Jadie Burrell (Southland) 7
  3. 12:42.67 ~ Ella Porcher (Maclay) 6
  4. 12:48.71 ~ Anna James (Thomas County) 8
  5. 12:53.78 ~ Camille Resavage (Holy Comforter) 6
  6. 12:56.02 ~ Sophia Paredes (Maclay) 6
  7. 13:12.92 ~ Katelyn Dessi (Holy Comforter) 8
  8. 13:20.50 ~ Kate Smith (Holy Comforter) 7
  9. 13:22.96 ~ Emily Azola (Valdosta) 6
  10. 13:39.22 ~ Lillian Phipps (Maclay) 6

Eighth-graders Wyatt Carpenter and Daniel Jones went one-two for Bainbridge, Georgia's Grace Christian Academy in the middle school boys' 3K, running 10:51 and 11:12. Tift eighth-grader Beau Bengston was third in 11:20, and fifth-grader Patrick Koon of Tallahassee's School of Arts and Sciences placed fourth in 11:29.

Wyatt Carpenter
Wyatt Carpenter

However helpful it may be for a team to take the top two places, it's five runners that determine a team's score. The first of Holy Comforter's five was seventh-grader Leo Kelly, fifth in 11:31. Kelly was joined by the rest of the Crusaders' scorers--seventh-grader Ben Kirbo (12th, 11:57), seventh-grader Jackson Yarbrough (17th, 12:19), sixth-grader Caleb Heuchan (18th, 12:23), and eighth-grader Jackson Jones (20th, 12:23). Together, they gave Holy Comforter 61 points and the team title. Led by Bengston, Tift was second with 86 points. Behind the eleventh-place 11:55 of seventh-grader Parker Jackson, Valdosta placed third with 97 points.


Team Standings, Middle School Boys, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Holy Comforter, 61
  2. Tift, 86
  3. Valdosta, 97
  4. Bainbridge, 122
  5. Maclay, 163
  6. Thomas County, 172
  7. Brookwood, 176
  8. Grace Christian, 181
  9. Jefferson County, 206
  10. Christ Classical, 240
  11. Arts and Sciences, 269

Top Ten Middle School Boys, 2016 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 10:50.73 ~ Wyatt Carpenter (Grace Christian) 8
  2. 11:11.23 ~ Daniel Jones (Grace Christian) 8
  3. 11:19.20 ~ Beau Bengston (Tift) 8
  4. 11:28.61 ~ Patrick Koon (Arts and Sciences) 5
  5. 11:30.97 ~ Leo Kelly (Holy Comforter) 7
  6. 11:38.30 ~ Jeremiah Thomas (Tift) 8
  7. 11:38.71 ~ Bryce Stephens (Tift) 8
  8. 11:39.01 ~ Nicholas Samuel (Unattached) 8
  9. 11:48.34 ~ Tanner Humphrey (Southland) 7
  10. 11:53.87 ~ Aiden Matthews (Bainbridge) 8

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