Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chiles sweeps, Phillips repeats, and Funderburk sets a record at the Cougar Challenge

In 2016, Lincoln High frosh Alyson Churchill won the high school girls' 5K at Cougar Cross-Country Challenge, then went on to win the FHSAA state cross-country title for class 3A girls. Additionally, Chiles High junior Michael Phillips won the Cougar Challenge high school boys' 5K that same year, and went on to win the FHSAA state cross-country title for class 3A boys. You might think that's an anomaly, but Joe Franklin, Patrick Swain, and Sukhi Khosla also won state titles in Florida after victories in the Cougar Challenge. In the ten-year history of the meet, that's a lot of state champions. Maybe the Cougar Challenge is a stepping-stone to victory in the State Final, and Florida's athletes should be making pilgrimages to Tallahassee's Phipps Park each autumn to compete in the Challenge. Or maybe Tallahassee just has produced a lot of great cross-country runners, many who have raced in the Cougar Challenge.

Elizabeth Funderburk
Elizabeth Funderburk

In 2017, though, don't look for the Cougar Challenge high school girls' 5K winner to take any state titles in Florida. On Saturday morning, 26 August 2017, that race was won by a Moultrie, Georgia athlete, Colquitt County High senior Elizabeth Funderburk. Funderburk cruised up and down the Phipps Park hills in a girls' meet record of 18:29, besting a field of 182 athletes. Come November, though, Funderburk will be competing for a state title on the Carrollton High course in Carrollton, Georgia instead of racing for a Florida crown at Apalachee Regional Park. The Cougar Challenge just might produce a Florida title in 2017, though. Defending state champ Michael Phillips won the boys' 5K at the Challenge for the second year in a row, running 16:42.

Michael Phillips
Michael Phillips

The girls' 5K started a few minutes after 8:00 AM. Most of the first kilometer was downhill, encouraging a stiff early pace. Gravity didn't help anyone keep up with Funderburk, though. The Colquitt County High senior had already broken contact with the field by the end of the first kilometer. In addition to the long downhill, the runners also had to negotiate two major uphills. Up or down, Funderburk kept widening the gap. Eventually she was not only out of reach of the other competitors, but out of sight as well. Chiles senior Ana Wallace placed second in the race, running 19:37.

"It was a fast start, so it really hurt me," recalled Wallace. "And of course that last will was killer. I didn't really have anyone to run with because Elizabeth got away from me at the start."

Chiles High girls' cross-country team
Chiles High girls' cross-country team

Wallace's teammate Emily Culley finished third, giving the Chiles girls a strong start in the team scoring. However, West Florida Tech put four runners in the top twenty--sophomore Skylar Grant (9th, 22:01), juniors Mallory Mott (10th, 22:03) and Maria Areola (11th, 22:06), and sophomore Ale'jandra Gilley (17th, 22:46). Chiles third and fourth runners were sophomore Emily Molen (14th, 22:41) and frosh Brooke Waldal (27th, 23:12). West Florida Tech held a one-point advantage while the teams waited for their fifth scorers. Those final scorers were Chiles senior Shealyn Sullivan (38th, 24:20) and West Florida Tech sophomore Alana Gaynor (45th, 24:55), giving Chiles 80 points and victory. West Florida Tech was second with 86 points. Led by sophomore Elizabeth Calabro (8th, 22:00), Leon High was a close third with 88 points.

Team Standings, High School Girls, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Chiles, 80
  2. West Florida Tech, 86
  3. Leon, 88
  4. Lincoln, 127
  5. Maclay, 152
  6. Deerfield Windsor, 182
  7. Southland, 189
  8. Valwood, 198
  9. Suwannee, 284
  10. Bainbridge, 296
  11. Tift County, 297
  12. Community Christian, 336
  13. Thomas County Central, 337
  14. Colquitt County, 339
  15. Wakulla, 376
  16. Lowndes, 379
  17. Franklin County, 495
  18. John Paul II Catholic, 503
  19. Brookwood, 553

Top Ten High School Girls, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 18:28.70, Elizabeth Funderburk (Colquitt County) 12
  2. 19:36.71, Ana Wallace (Chiles) 12
  3. 20:13.08, Emily Culley (Chiles) 11
  4. 20:51.37, Hannah Spooneybarger (Gulf Breeze) 11
  5. 21:29.96, Emily Golden (Tift County) 10
  6. 21:46.89, Charlotte Augenstein (Deerfield-Windsor) 10
  7. 21:57.70, Megan Churchill (Lincoln) 10
  8. 21:59.97, Elizabeth Calabro (Leon) 10
  9. 22:00.93, Skylar Grant (West Florida Tech) 10
  10. 22:02.43, Mallory Mott (West Florida Tech) 11

The runners in the boys' 5K were every bit as anxious as those in the girls' 5K to dash down the first kilometer of downhill running. The leaders went by the mile mark in 5:05, a pace that none of them maintained for the rest of the race. But while everyone in the boys' 5K slowed up, Michael Phillips slowed up least. The Chiles senior took charge, racing to a 16:42 win. Chiles senior Matthew Newland was second in 16:53, and Lincoln senior Clayton Carlson took third in 17:24.

Chiles High boys' cross-country team
Chiles High boys' cross-country team

Phillips and Newland were joined in the top ten by the rest of the Chiles scorers--senior Robert Nowak (4th, 17:34), junior Connor Phillips (6th, 17:47), and junior Clayburn Milford (10th, 18:00). Those five scored a mathematically unbeatable 23 points, and the Chiles boys won the team title for the second year in a row. Behind the eighth-place finish of sophomore Porter Hill, Deerfield-Windsor edged Lincoln for second in the team standings, 123 to 124. Leon was a close fourth with 126, led by sophomore Joseph Ashebo (15th, 18:32).

Team Standings, High School Boys, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Chiles, 23
  2. Deerfield Windsor, 123
  3. Lincoln, 124
  4. Leon, 126
  5. West Florida Tech, 151
  6. Lowndes, 173
  7. Wakulla, 178
  8. Maclay, 244
  9. Tift County, 270
  10. Bainbridge, 300
  11. Suwannee, 309
  12. Rickards, 318
  13. Colquitt County, 346
  14. John Paul II Catholic, 383
  15. Thomas County Central, 393
  16. Grace Christian, 419
  17. Southland, 477
  18. Franklin County, 512
  19. Wakulla Christian, 530
  20. Jefferson County, 551

Top Ten High School Boys, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 16:41.70, Michael Phillips (Chiles) 12
  2. 16:52.26, Matthew Newland (Chiles) 12
  3. 17:23.25, Clayton Carlson (Lincoln) 12
  4. 17:33.38, Robert Nowak (Chiles) 12
  5. 17:39.72, Brishen House (Lowndes) 12
  6. 17:46.02, Connor Phillips (Chiles) 11
  7. 17:54.05, Micah Hilliard (Suwannee) 12
  8. 17:55.70, Porter Hill (Deerfield-Windsor) 10
  9. 17:56.13, Ethan Merritt (Deerfield-Windsor) 12
  10. 17:59.05, Clayburn Milford (Chiles) 11

Cougar Cross Country Challenge High School Winners
2006 - 2017

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)
26 August 2017Chiles, 8018:29, Elizabeth Funderburk (Colquitt County)
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)
26 August 2017Chiles, 2316:42, Michael Phillips (Chiles)

The middle school athletes raced three kilometers at the Cougar Challenge, only enough distance for one trip downhill to the Lake Jackson basin and trip back uphill. Tift eighth-grader Ainsley Toews was the fastest on those slopes in the girls' race, running 13:06 and winning by well over 100 meters. Another Tift runner, seventh-grader Laura Kate Wright, grabbed the runner-up spot in 13:38, while Holy Comforter eighth-grader Sophia Umana took third in 13:43.

Ainsley Toews
Ainsley Toews

Tift took three of the next four places, with seventh-grader Hannah Larger fourth in 13:52, seventh-grader Madeline Perrin fifth in the same time, and sixth-grader Amanda Tovar seventh in 14:01. Once Tovar crossed the finish line, Tift had a near-perfect 18 points and first place in the team standings. Holy Comforter, the 2016 team champs, was second with 49 points. Led by sixth-grader Samantha Jennings (12th, 14:51), Thomas County scored 83 points to place third in the eight-team field.

Team Standings, Middle School Girls, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Tift, 18
  2. Holy Comforter, 49
  3. Thomas County, 83
  4. Southland, 104
  5. Wakulla, 158
  6. Riversprings, 174
  7. Brookwood, 191
  8. Community Leadership, 220

Top Ten Middle School Girls, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 13:05.43, Ainsley Toews (Tift) 8
  2. 13:37.20, Laura Kate Wright (Tift) 7
  3. 13:42.75, Sophia Umana (Holy Comforter) 8
  4. 13:51.13, Hannah Larger (Tift) 7
  5. 13:51.53, Madeline Perrin (Tift) 7
  6. 14:00.00, Ryland Bland (Bainbridge) 7
  7. 14:00.60, Amanda Tovar (Tift) 6
  8. 14:04.20, Camille Resavage (Holy Comforter) 7
  9. 14:06.79, Alexandria Vaughan (Tift) 8
  10. 14:19.02, Liliana Lewis (Wakulla) 7

In the middle school boys' 3K, Fairview sixth-grader Patrick Koon was racing in Phipps Park for the second Saturday in a row. The previous weekend, Koon had won the Miller Landing Madness 3K in the park. The Cougar Challenge 3K, though, was a different race on a different course.

Patrick Koon
Patrick Koon

"It was worse than last week," said Koon. "I was hilly. The competition was good. It wasn't just Leon County schools."

Handing the hills and the competition, Koon won the race in 11:06. Case Gregory, a Colquitt County eighth-grader, was second in 11:19. Holy Comforter eighth-grader Leo Kelly was third in 11:34.

Holy Comforter Episcopal School boys' cross-country team
Holy Comforter boys' cross-country team

After Kelly, Holy Comforter's next four scorers were eighth-grader Jackson Yarbrough (8th, 12:27), seventh-grader Jack Dessi (14th, 12:56), sixth-grader Will Winsor (15th, 12:56), and sixth-grader Matthew Wilbourn (20th, 13:03). Those five runners gave Holy Comforter 55 points, good enough to successfully defend their 2016 Cougar Challenge title. Colquitt County was second out of eleven teams with 77 points. Led by the seventh-place, 12:23 finish of eighth-grader Alex Cardoso, Tift was third with 93 points.

Team Standings, Middle School Boys, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. Holy Comforter, 55
  2. Colquitt County, 77
  3. Tift, 93
  4. Bainbridge, 111
  5. Maclay, 135
  6. Southland, 158
  7. Fairview, 161
  8. Thomas County, 171
  9. Community Leadership, 206
  10. Whigham, 250
  11. Christ Classical, 281

Top Ten Middle School Boys, 2017 Cougar Cross-Country Challenge
  1. 11:05.23, Patrick Koon (Fairview) 6
  2. 11:18.20, Case Gregory (Colquitt County) 8
  3. 11:33.95, Leo Kelly (Holy Comforter) 8
  4. 11:52.62, Tanner Humphrey (Southland) 8
  5. 12:08.32, Hayes Lightsey (Colquitt County) 8
  6. 12:14.46, Jack Saussy (Brookwood) 8
  7. 12:22.11, Alex Cardoso (Tift) 8
  8. 12:26.30, Jackson Yarbrough (Holy Comforter) 8
  9. 12:28.14, Blair Golden (Tift) 6
  10. 12:31.71, Aide Van Iddekinge (Maclay) 7


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