Thursday, September 15, 2016

Paige Churchill and Wes Blake open the season with victories at Fort Braden

Leon County Schools' middle school cross country teams came to Fort Braden Park on Wednesday afternoon, 14 September 2016. The seventh annual Fort Braden Run was the first meet of the season, but it wasn't supposed to be.

The scheduled season opener had been the Swift Creek Invitational Cross Country Meet on 7 September 2016. However, Hurricane Hermine struck Tallahassee, Florida on 2 September 2016. Five days later recovery in the area was nearly complete--roads were cleared, schools were back in session, and most electrical customers had their power back. The Apalachee Regional Park Cross Country Course was still a mess, though, and the Swift Creek Invitational was canceled. Opening day was deferred till the Fort Braden Run. No hurricanes were threatening the Tallahassee region that day, although the sky grew ominously cloudy late in the afternoon.

Paige Churchill
Paige Churchill

"I was nervous, so I was kind of glad when it got canceled," said Paige Churchill about the Swift Creek Invitational. "I was afraid that this one [the Fort Braden Run] was going to get rained out, though."

Churchill's nerves were understandable. A Swift Creek sixth-grader, the season opener was going to be her first middle school cross country race. But Churchill needn't have worried about either the weather or the race. The sky cleared before the racing started at Fort Braden. And when the girls' two mile was over, Churchill had won by 50 meters, running 14:05.

Caroline Cummings, Lexi Gray
Caroline Cummings and Lexi Gray

"I was really pleased," said Churchill. "I didn't expect to get first."

Churchill had gone to the front early in the race, sharing the lead with Swift Creek eighth-grader Lexi Gray. Later in the race Churchill broke away, leaving Gray behind to fight for the runner-up spot with Montford seventh-grader Caroline Cummings. While Churchill got the win, Cummings took second in 14:19 and Gray placed third in 14:22.

Deerlake girls' cross country team
Deerlake Girls

The Montford team added another top ten scorer when sixth-grader Sophia Harris placed fourth for the Mustangs in 14:45. However, Deerlake took the next three places with sixth-grader Layla Thompson fifth in 15:01, eighth-grader McKenna Swartzman sixth in 15:01, and eighth-grader Brooke Waldal seventh in 15:05. Montford added a third top-ten scorer when seventh-grader Sadie Wolfe finished eighth in 15:05, just ahead of Deerlake seventh-grader Scout Causey (9th, 15:05). Eighth-grader Elizabeth Sauer placed eleventh for Montford in 15:13. Deerlake's scoring was completed by sixth-grader Maya Tang (15th, 15:50), but the team's victory depended on the "pushers"--eighth-graders Jayd Derickson (16th, 16:01) and Lauren Cook (17th, 16:01). By finishing ahead of Montford's fifth runner, the "pushers" added two points to the Mustangs' score, and Deerlake won with 42 points to Montford's 44. If you ever need an illustration that all seven athletes on a cross country team are important, this is it. Scoring 63 points, Swift Creek was third in the seven-team field.

2015 Fort Braden Run Team Standings, Girls
  1. Deerlake, 42
  2. Montford, 44
  3. Swift Creek, 63
  4. Raa, 86
  5. Fairview, 129
  6. Fort Braden, 183
  7. Cobb, 196
  8. Griffin, NTS
    Nims, NTS

Top Ten Girls, 2015 Fort Braden Run
  1. 14:04.50 ~ Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 6
  2. 14:18.96 ~ Caroline Cummings (Montford) 7
  3. 14:21.22 ~ Lexi Gray (Swift Creek) 8
  4. 14:44.38 ~ Sophia Harris (Montford) 6
  5. 15:00.66 ~ Layla Thompson (Deerlake) 6
  6. 15:00.90 ~ Mckenna Swartzman (Deerlake) 8
  7. 15:04.03 ~ Brooke Waldal (Deerlake) 8
  8. 15:04.82 ~ Sadie Wolfe (Montford) 7
  9. 15:08.40 ~ Scout Causey (Deerlake) 7
  10. 15:10.98 ~ Amaya Jones (Raa) 8

In the boys' race there were no first-meet jitters for Swift Creek eighth-grader Wes Blake. Blake was not only in his third season of racing cross country for the Swift Creek Wolves, he was also the defending champion in the boys' two mile at the Fort Braden Run. Blake was disappointed to be reaching the end of his middle school career with never having raced the Swift Creek Invitational.

Gabriel Jager-Sumner, Wes Blake
Gabriel Jager-Sumner and Wes Blake

"I was bummed out when the meet was canceled because I've never got to run that race," said Blake. "The boys' race was also canceled last year."

Fairview seventh-grader Gabriel Jager-Sumner set the early pace in the boys' race at the Fort Braden Run, leading the field as the runners made their first trip across a narrow bridge going from Fort Braden Park to the grounds of Fort Braden School. Wes Blake was right with him, though, and on the return trip across the bridge, Blake had taken possession of the race.

Connor Edwards
Connor Edwards

"At the bridge I really started to kick it in," said Blake. "I could see the finish."

Blake reached that finish line first in 11:50. Jager-Sumer took second in 12:05. The Swift Creek Wolves grabbed four of the next six places, with sixth-grader Connor Edwards third in 12:51, sixth-grader Eric Stillman fifth in 12:54, seventh-grader Brody Miller sixth in 12:57, and seventh-grader Kyle Spratt eighth in 13:00. That gave Swift Creek a mathematically unbeatable total of 23 points and the Fort Braden Run team title, first in a field of nine teams. Led by the ninth-place 13:00 performance of seventh-grader Matt Reynolds, Deerlake was second with 63 points. Jager-Sumner and Fairview were third with 72 points.

Amarie Moore
Amarie Moore

2015 Fort Braden Run Team Standings, Boys
  1. Swift Creek, 23
  2. Deerlake, 63
  3. Fairview, 72
  4. Montford, 112
  5. Raa, 121
  6. Cobb, 141
  7. Griffin, 194
  8. Fort Braden, 258
  9. Nims, 277

Top Ten Boys, 2015 Fort Braden Run
  1. 11:49.72 ~ Weston Blake (Swift Creek) 8
  2. 12:04.83 ~ Gabriel Jager-Sumner (Fairview) 7
  3. 12:50.97 ~ Connor Edwards (Swift Creek) 6
  4. 12:52.52 ~ Amarie Moore (Raa) 8
  5. 12:53.42 ~ Eric Stillman (Swift Creek) 6
  6. 12:56.48 ~ Brody Miller (Swift Creek) 7
  7. 12:57.87 ~ Nate Thompson (Montford) 6
  8. 12:59.14 ~ Kyle Spratt (Swift Creek) 7
  9. 12:59.68 ~ Matt Reynolds (Deerlake) 7
  10. 13:00.01 ~ Jameer Hart (Cobb)

Fort Braden Cross-Country Meet Champions, 2010 - 2016
22 September 201012:26, Sukhi Khosla (Raa)15:01, Rebecca Clendinen (Raa)
14 September 201112:16, Evan Francis (Raa)14:45, Zoe Sheldon (Swift Creek)
12 September 201212:40, Matthew Cashin (Raa)13:58, Audrey Dogan (Raa)
4 September 201312:15, Jacob Dodson (Raa)13:51, Saige Kemeny (Montford)
3 September 201413:00, Bryant McKnight (Montford)13:13, Lawton Campbell (Deerlake)
9 September 201513:08, Weston Blake (Swift Creek)13:26, Alyson Churchill (Swift Creek)
14 September 201611:50, Weston Blake (Swift Creek)14:05, Paige Churchill (Swift Creek)

Fort Braden Cross-Country Meet Team Titles, 2010 - 2016
22 September 2010Raa (15 points)Raa (33 points)
14 September 2011Montford (55 points)Swift Creek (47 points)
12 September 2012Swift Creek (54 points)Montford (48 points)
4 September 2013Montford (38 points)Swift Creek (44 points)
3 September 2014Swift Creek (60 points)Swift Creek (36 points)
9 September 2015Deerlake (44 points)Swift Creek (38 points)
14 September 2016Swift Creek (23 points)Deerlake (42 points)

Leon County Schools' 2016 middle school cross country season was slated to continue on Thursday morning, 22 September 2016, with the 30th Everhart Invitational, the oldest middle school competition in Tallahassee if not in the whole state of Florida. Montford's Mustang Stampede was set for Wednesday evening, 28 September 2016, and the season was set to conclude with the Leon County Schools Championship Meet on Wednesday evening, 5 October 2016.


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