Friday, September 29, 2017

Paige Churchill and Ben Kirbo were head of the herd at the Mustang Stampede

If you're old enough, you might remember the 1960s when there were junior high schools in Leon County. If you're not quite that old, you might remember the 1970s when the junior highs became middle schools, and those middle school didn't have interscholastic sports. If you're not even that old, you might remember the 1980s, when cross-country as an interscholastic sport came to the Leon County middle schools.

Paige Churchill
Paige Churchill

Leon County middle schools are still part of the landscape in Tallahassee, Florida and so is middle school cross-country. The sport has a short season, though, with only five meets including the Leon Country Schools Championship. The last meet before the championship, the fourth of the season, was the Mustang Stampede at Montford Middle School on Thursday evening, 28 September 2017. Swift Creek seventh-grader Paige Churchill won the girls' two-mile race in 13:12, leading her team to a first-place score of 20 points. Montford eighth-grader Ben Kirbo won the boys' two mile in 11:15, while the Deerlake boys scored 42 points to take the team title.

The girls' two mile opened the meet, starting just after 6:00 PM. Several different athletes optimistically tried leading early, but by half a mile into the race Paige Churchill. the defending champion, was setting the pace for the field. The runners plunged into a pine forest. When they emerged half a mile later, Churchill had broken the race open. 30 meters behind her, Swift Creek eighth-grader Elise Ferguson and Deerlake seventh-grader Maya Tang were fighting for second. Churchill widened the gap during the rest of the run, racing home in a winning 13:12. Ferguson took second in 13:31 and Tang third in 13:38.

Elise Ferguson
Elise Ferguson

Swift Creek put three more girls in the top ten--sixth-grader Ava Jones was fourth in 13:50, seventh-grader Stella Lewis was fifth in 13:54, and seventh-grader Alima Hemenway was eighth in 14:03. Together with Churchill and Ferguson, that gave Swift Creek 20 points, mathematically unbeatable in the low-sccore-wins world of cross-country. Deerlake was second in the eight-team field with 32 points, and Montford was third with 84 points.

It wasn't the home course for Churchill, but as the 2016 Stampede winner, she was familiar with the course. She also had her three sisters at the meet to cheer her on.

Maya Tang
Maya Tang

"It's really cool! I'm glad that they can come out to be at the races," said Churchill. "I like the shade on course even though there are a few hills."

2017 Mustang Stampede Team Standings, Girls
  1. Swift Creek, 20
  2. Deerlake, 42
  3. Montford, 84
  4. Raa, 132
  5. Fairview, 154
  6. Cobb, 175
  7. Fort Braden, 179
  8. Nims, 229

Top 10 Girls, 2017 Montford Mustang Stampede Two Mile
  1. 13:11.58, Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 7
  2. 13:30.43, Elise Ferguson (Swift Creek) 8
  3. 13:37.42, Maya Tang (Deerlake) 7
  4. 13:49.05, Ava Jones (Swift Creek) 6
  5. 13:53.11, Stella Lewis (Swift Creek) 7
  6. 13:54.69, Nicole Kelly (Deerlake) 7
  7. 14:01.14, Parker Matherne (Cobb) 7
  8. 14:02.16, Alima Hemenway (Swift Creek) 7
  9. 14:11.16, Kendall Meyer (Deerlake) 8
  10. 14:13.00, Leah Kiros (Deerlake) 6

Early in the second half of the boys' two mile, Deerlake runners Filippo Reina and Wyatt Townsend were sharing the lead. Less than twenty meters back, though, they were being stalked by Ben Kirbo and Fairview sixth-grader Patrick Koon. Kirbo and Koon ran the leaders down, then Kirbo kept going, winning the race in 11:15. Koon took second in 11:24. Reina edged Swift Creek seventh-grader Connor Edwards for third, 11:33 to 11:34.

Ben Kirbo
Ben Kirbo

After Reina, Deerlake got scoring performances from Townsend (6th, 11:47) and eighth-graders William Wilkerson (7th, 11:53), Matt Reynolds (10th, 12:01), and Grant Gallagaer (16th, 12:21), giving Deerlake 42 points and the team title. Led by Edwards, Swift Creek was second with 52 points. Kirbo's Montford team scored 86 to take third.

As a Montford student, Kirbo goes to class next the Mustang Stampede course every day. "That definitely helped," he said. "But it wasn't like we run it every day. Because of the hurricane there were a lot of trees down and we couldn't train out there till a day or two ago.

"I love this course."

Patrick Koon
Patrick Koon

Following the Mustang Stampede, Leon County Schools middle school cross-country season concludes on Wednesday evening, 4 October 2017, with the championship meet at Apalachee Regional Park. Churchill will be going for her second straight county title. Kirbo will be trying for his first.

"I'm probably going to be nervous for the next one," said Churchill. "I only have one more practice with the team. That's going to be sad."

Filippo Reina, Wyatt Townsend
Filippo Reina & Wyatt Townsend

"I'm going to try to keep doing what works," said Kirbo. "Stay with the fast guys and hope I do well."

2017 Mustang Stampede Team Standings, Boys
  1. Deerlake, 42
  2. Swift Creek, 52
  3. Montford, 86
  4. Cobb, 101
  5. Raa, 113
  6. Fairview, 142
  7. Fort Braden, 237
  8. Nims, 250
  9. Griffin, 257

Top 10 Boys, 2017 Montford Mustang Stampede Two Mile
  1. 11:14.84, Ben Kirbo (Montford) 8
  2. 11:23.90, Patrick Koon (Fairview) 6
  3. 11:32.43, Filippo Reina (Deerlake) 8
  4. 11:33.95, Connor Edwards (Swift Creek) 7
  5. 11:34.31, Justin Moore (Cobb) 8
  6. 11:46.76, Wyatt Townsend (Deerlake) 7
  7. 11:52.54, William Wilkerson (Deerlake) 8
  8. 11:53.40, Eric Stillman (Swift Creek) 7
  9. 11:56.61, James Fygetakis-Gollo (Raa) 8
  10. 12:00.82, Matt Reynolds (Deerlake) 8

Mustang Cross-Country Stampede Champions
2013 - 2017
Girls' Two Mile
DateTeam ChampIndividual Champ
27 September 2013Swift Creek, 37 points13:42, Saige Kemeny (Montford) 7
10 September 2014Swift Creek, 3412:46, Lawton Campbell (Deerlake) 8
30 September 2015Swift Creek, 4312:25, Emily Molen (Deerlake) 8
28 September 2016Montford, 4313:12, Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 6
28 September 2017Swift Creek, 2013:12, Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 7
Boys' Two Mile
DateTeam ChampIndividual Champ
27 September 2013Montford, 56 points11:56, Jacob Dodson (Raa) 8
10 September 2014Swift Creek, 6612:14, Tavaris King (Griffin) 8
30 September 2015Deerlake, 4311:56, Weston Blake (Swift Creek) 7
28 September 2016Swift Creek, 3911:28, Weston Blake (Swift Creek) 7
28 September 2017Deerlake, 4211:15, Ben Kirbo (Montford) 8