Friday, September 23, 2016

Homestretch sprints pay off for Amaya Jones and Wes Blake at Everhart

Thursday, 22 September 2016, was a morning for close finishes in the Everhart Invitational Middle School Cross Country Meet at Tallahassee, Florida's Gretchen Everhart School. In the girls' two-mile race, Raa eighth-grader Amaya Jones came from behind to slip across the line just ahead of Swift Creek's Lexi Gray. The boys' two-mile was just exciting, with Swift Creek eighth-grader Wes Blake outkicking Gabriel Jager-Sumner of Fairview on the homestretch for an 11:47 to 11:49 victory. The Montford girls and the Swift Creek boys came away with the team titles.

Amaya Jones
Amaya Jones

Most of the Leon County Schools' middle school cross country meets are in the evening, but the Everhart Invitational comes in the late morning, right in the middle of the work day. You have to slip away from work to watch, much like all the afternoon games the Chicago Cubs played before lights were finally installed in Wrigley Field. Another Wrigley Field tradition are the spectators on neighboring rooftops, watching the Cubs without the burden of buying a ticket. There's no admission charge to the Everhart Invitational, but in one of the backyards facing the schoolyard the residents had set up a pair of lawn chairs to watch the race. Wrigley field is a bit older than the Everhart Invitational, but the 2016 event was it's 30th running, making it the oldest middle school cross country meet in Tallahassee if not all of Florida. And just like Wrigley has peculiarities like ivy-covered walls and a short outfield, the Everhart course has its own quirks, such as most of the route being on neighborhood streets rather than fields or forest.


There was a slight problem with the course shortly after the girls' race started at 11:00 AM. A little past the quarter-mile mark, a ribbon was strung across the way. This was sorted out in a few moments, though, and the leaders continued onward--Swift Creek sixth-grader Paige Churchill, Swift Creek eighth-grader Lexi Gray, and Raa eighth-grader Amaya Jones.

Lexi Gray
Lexi Gray

After leaving the schoolyard Churchill fell off the pace. Gray was a few seconds ahead of Jones by the mile mark, but that gap got no wider during the second mile. Then, on the homestretch it narrowed. With the finish line approaching, Jones accelerated. Gray was also picking up the pace, but Jones continued to close. Just before the finish line Jones overtook Gray and sprinted home first in 13:51. Gray was a close second in 13:52. Montford sixth-grader Sophia Harris won a homestretch battle with Paige Churchill to take third in 14:14; Churchill was fourth in 14:18.


It was the first cross country win for Amaya Jones, who is only in her second year of the sport. Her earlier running was on the track.


"I used to do track and I thought I'd try this out," explained Jones. "I ran 400, 800, and 1500 with Tallahassee Zoom. Today, I just wanted to keep a good distance and sprint at the end."

Paige Churchill and Sophia Harris
Paige Churchill and Sophia Harris

Sophia Harris was just the first of four Montford Mustangs in the top ten. Montford also had eighth-grader Elizabeth Sauer finish fifth in 14:32, seventh-grader Sadie Wolfe sixth in 14:35, and seventh-grader Kellet Snyder ninth in 14:47. The Mustangs' fifth scorer was seventh-grader Caroline Cummings, fifteenth in 15:02, giving Montford 38 points and the team title. Deerlake had 55 points and second place in the field of seven teams. Swift Creek edged Raa for third, 78 to 79.


2016 Everhart Invitational Team Standings, Girls
  1. Montford, 38
  2. Deerlake, 55
  3. Swift Creek, 78
  4. Raa, 79
  5. Fairview, 119
  6. Fort Braden, 182
  7. Cobb, 200
  8. Griffin, NTS
    Nims, NTS

Top Ten Girls, 2016 Everhart Invitational
  1. 13:50.97 ~ Amaya Jones (Raa) 8
  2. 13:51.86 ~ Lexi Gray (Swift Creek) 8
  3. 14:13.05 ~ Sophia Harris (Montford) 6
  4. 14:17.70 ~ Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 6
  5. 14:31.79 ~ Elizabeth Sauer (Montford) 8
  6. 14:34.06 ~ Sadie Wolfe (Montford) 7
  7. 14:37.54 ~ Jayd Derickson (Deerlake) 8
  8. 14:40.81 ~ Lilli Unger (Raa) 8
  9. 14:46.51 ~ Kellett Snyder (Montford) 7
  10. 14:47.18 ~ Mckenna Swartzman (Deerlake) 8

After the girls' race, Amaya Jones was enthused about the Everhart course. "It has less hills and more flat ground, which is what I'm used to."


Swift Creek eighth-grader Wes Blake, fifth in the boys' race at the 2015 Everhart Invitational, had a somewhat different memory of the venue.

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

"I'm not a fan of that [Everhart] course," said Blake. "There's a giant hill about halfway. And it's in the middle of the day so it's always hot."


Flat, or giant hill? If there was a hill midway through the boys' race, Blake and Fairview seventh-grader Gabriel Jager-Sumner led the way up its slopes. They passed the mile mark in front of everyone, virtually together in 5:54. The two stayed side-by-side till less than 200 meters to go, where Jager-Sumner bolted ahead. Blake countered with his own move, overtaking Jager-Sumner during the final hundred meters. The two runners hurled over the finish line, with Blake first in 11:47 and Jager-Sumner second in 11:49. Nicholas Samuel, a Fairview eighth-grader, was third in 12:28, just ahead of Raa's Amarie Moore (4th, 12:30) and Swift Creek's Eric Stillman (5th, 12:31).

Nicholas Samuel
Nicholas Samuel

Connor Edwards (9th, 12:49) and Brody Miller (10th, 12:50) also finished in the top ten for the Swift Creek Wolves. Trenton Blake (16th, 13:07) finished the scoring for the Wolves, giving Swift Creek points and first place among the nine teams at the meet. Deerlake scored 70, placing second to Swift Creek for the second week in a row. Montford squeaked past Fairview 85 to 86 for third.


After the Everhart Invitational, two meets remained in the Leon County Schools' 2016 cross country season--Montford's Mustang Stampede on 28 September 2016, and the LCS Championship Meet on 5 October 2016.


2016 Everhart Invitational Team Standings, Boys
  1. Swift Creek, 41
  2. Deerlake, 70
  3. Montford, 85
  4. Fairview, 86
  5. Raa, 117
  6. Cobb, 144
  7. Griffin, 206
  8. Fort Braden, 258
  9. Nims, 261

Top Ten Boys, 2016 Everhart Invitational
  1. 11:46.50 ~ Weston Blake (Swift Creek) 8
  2. 11:48.41 ~ Gabriel Jager-Sumner (Fairview) 7
  3. 12:27.49 ~ Nicholas Samuel (Fairview) 8
  4. 12:30.00 ~ Amarie Moore (Raa) 8
  5. 12:30.67 ~ Eric Stillman (Swift Creek) 6
  6. 12:37.24 ~ Campbell Hart (Cobb) 8
  7. 12:42.48 ~ James Fygetakis-Gollop (Raa) 7
  8. 12:44.32 ~ Michael Sweeney (Deerlake) 8
  9. 12:48.18 ~ Connor Edwards (Swift Creek) 6
  10. 12:49.45 ~ Brody Miller (Swift Creek) 7


Everhart Invitational Champions, 1988 - 2016
DateBoysGirls
22 September 2016Weston Blake (Swift Creek) 11:47Amaya Jones (Raa) 13:51
17 September 2015Spencer Amsellem (Deerlake) 12:17Emily Molen (Deerlake) 12:16
18 September 2014Tavaris King (Griffin) 12:04Lawton Campbell (Deerlake) 12:41
19 September 2013Jacob Dodson (Raa) 11:46Ana Wallace (Deerlake) 13:13
20 September 2012Matthew Cashin (Raa) 12:01Saige Kemeny (Montford) 13:19
22 September 2011Evan Francis (Raa) 11:56Zoe Sheldon (Swift Creek) 13:43
30 September 2010Wil Luca (Raa) 11:41Rebecca Clendinen (Raa) 13:57
1 October 2009Cade Zimmerman (Deerlake) 11:33Cece Williams (Deerlake) 13:26
25 September 2008Will Henderson (Raa) 11:42Cece Williams (Deerlake) 11:56
27 September 2007Will Henderson (Raa) 12:11Carly Thomas (Raa) 12:27
28 September 2006Will Stanford (Raa) 10:59Summer Shepherd (Raa) 12:59
29 September 2005Kurt Dietrich (Swift Creek) 12:07Jana Stolting (Deerlake) 13:26
30 September 2004Graham Hawkes (Cobb) 11:51Mallory Alonzo (Raa) 14:01
2 October 2003Joe Franklin (Griffin) 11:38Charlotte Murrell (Cobb) 14:17
3 October 2002Bryan Miletich (Deerlake) 11:51Julia Bryant (Deerlake) 14:06
4 October 2001Kevin Bryant (Raa) 12:33Karen Devick (Raa) 13:58
4 October 2000Danny Sass (Deerlake) 13:04LaShaunta Arnold (Fairview) 14:50
1 October 1999Logan Wolcott (Raa) 12:52LaShaunta Arnold (Fairview) 14:30
13 October 1998Matt Varn (Swift Creek) 12:31Allie Hunter (Swift Creek) 14:27
1997Anthony Washington (Bellevue) 12:26Allie Hunter (Swift Creek) 15:00
1996
6 October 1995Bryan Hendricks (Cobb) 8:15*Meredith Warren (Raa) 10:36*
6 October 1994Kevin Anderson (Deerlake) 8:10*Meredith Warren (Raa) 9:56*
20 October 1993
20 October 1992Mark Roehl (Raa) 8:40*Brianne Pla (Cobb) 9:33*
22 October 1991Michael Rodriguez (Raa) 8:38*Holly Skinner (Cobb) 10:15*
10 October 1990Tim Bolton (Cobb) 8:44*Christy Weinberger(Bellevue)10:17*
24 May 1990Wayne McDaniel (Raa) 6:58†Cynthia Costin (Griffin) 8:06†
23 May 1989Wayne McDaniel (Raa) 7:09†Tonia Jackson (Nims) 8:13†
10 May 1988Bobby Jessup (Griffin) †Tonia Jackson (Raa) †
* 1-1/2 mile race at Gretchen Everhart School
† 2 km race at Florida State University


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#1776 (That's the spirit!)