Friday, November 4, 2016

Sanchez and the Conquistadors conquer the FCSAA at Apalachee Regional Park

If in the future you're studying a list of FCSAA cross-country champions, look for Charlene Sanchez' name at the top of the list. Because on Friday morning, 4 November 2016, Sanchez won the Florida College System Activity Association first women's cross-country championship in a five-kilometer race on the Apalachee Regional Park course in Tallahassee, Florida. If there's a list of team champions as well, look for Sanchez' school, Pasco-Hernando State College, because the Conquistadors edged South Florida State College for the team title, 33 to 37.


People who, like myself, are in their late youth, will recall a time when just about every junior college in Florida fielded teams in cross-country as well as track. By the 1990s, though, all of those athletics programs were gone. Then in the 21st century women's junior college cross-country began returning to Florida. First Pasco-Hernando State College and Chipola College added women's cross-country programs. In 2015 South Florida State fielded a women's cross-country team. In 2016 Tallahassee Community College added the sport, and there were four schools in the FCSAA with teams--enough to hold a championship meet. Thus the inaugural meet was scheduled for 4 November 2016, with Tallahassee Community College hosting the competition on Florida's premier cross-country venue, the Apalachee Regional Park Championship Cross-Country Course.

Pasco-Hernando State Conquistadors cross-country team
Pasco-Hernando State

The race started at 9:00 AM. A trio of Pasco-Hernando athletes set the early pace for the field. One of the three was Conquistador sophomore Charlene Sanchez. Halfway through the race, Pasco-Hernando State frosh Kylyn Burbine had dropped out of the lead pack, leaving behind Conquistador's Sanchez and Cynthia Negron. Stalking them, though, was South Florida State sophomore Grace Miller.


Miller overtook Negron during the fourth kilometer, but couldn't gain any ground on Sanchez, and Sanchez crossed the finish line as the first FCSAA cross-country champion, running 20:29. Miller was second in 20:36 and Negron placed third in 20:58.

Charlene Sanchez
Charlene Sanchez

Pasco-Hernando State had two more finishers in the top ten, with Kylyn Burbine taking fifth in 21:10 and Annaliese Besaw ninth in 21:53. However, South Florida State also had four scorers in the top ten, with Miller joined by Julia Soto (4th, 21:07), Cali Gumpel (8th, 21:39), and Alexis Armstead (10th, 22:02). South Florida's Savannah Walter took thirteenth in 22:24, giving the Panthers 37 points. But Pasco-Hernando State didn't have much longer to wait for their fifth scorer, as frosh Lauren Hale placed fifteenth in 23:10. The Conquistadors had 33 points and the team title. South Florida State was second, while Tallahassee Community College scored 60 points for third. Chipola placed fourth with 95 points.


Next up for the FCSAA schools is the NJCAA Championship in NJCAA National Cross-Country Championship in El Dorado, Kansas on 12 November 2016 followed by the NJCAA Half Marathon Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama on 19 November 2016. And what about the future of the FCSAA Championship Meet?

Charlene Sanchez, Steve Winterling
Charlene Sanchez and Steve Winterling

"Hopefully we can get this event to grow and build," said Steve Winterling, the FCSAA chair for women's cross-country.


With a variety of FCSAA members talking about adding cross-country teams, there doesn't seem to be any question that the Championship will get larger, possibly doubling in size during the next few years. And if all 28 FCSAA schools decide to field cross-country teams? Apalachee Regional Park has room for them.


Team Standings, 2016 FCSAA Cross-Country Championship
  1. Pasco-Hernando State, 33
  2. South Florida State, 37
  3. Tallahassee Community, 60
  4. Chipola, 95

Top Ten Women, 2016 FCSAA Cross-Country Championship
  1. 20:28.91 ~ Charlene Sanchez (Pasco-Hernando State) SO
  2. 20:35.59 ~ Grace Miller (South Florida State) SO
  3. 20:57.58 ~ Cynthia Negron (Pasco-Hernando State) SO
  4. 21:06.70 ~ Julia Soto (South Florida State) SO
  5. 21:09.58 ~ Kylyn Burbine (Pasco-Hernando State) FR
  6. 21:26.22 ~ Samantha Reilly (Tallahassee Community) FR
  7. 21:32.28 ~ Mia Wiederkehr (Tallahassee Community) FR
  8. 21:38.32 ~ Cali Gumpel (South Florida State) SO
  9. 21:52.22 ~ Annaliese Besaw (Pasco-Hernando State) FR
  10. 22:01.74 ~ Alexis Armstead (South Florida State) SO

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