Thursday, September 7, 2017

Churchill, Koon open cross-country season with wins at the Swift Creek Invitational

On Thursday afternoon, 7 September 2017, Hurricane Irma was a Category Five storm north of Hispaniola. That's a long way from Tallahassee, Florida, but the city was in the five-day probability cone for the forecast path of the storm. On the south side of Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee residents were filling sandbags, preparing for the tropical worst that the cyclone might bring to Leon County. On the north side of the park, though, the Leon County Schools system was opening the middle school cross-country season with the Swift Creek Invitational. Deerlake took team titles in both the girls' race and the boys' race, while Swift Creek seventh-grader Paige Churchill won the girls' 3K and Fairview sixth-grader Patrick Koon won the boys' 3K.

Paige Churchill

The Swift Creek Invitational was no stranger to the effects of weather. In 2015, the meet's inaugural year, the boys' race had to be canceled due to lightning. In 2016 the entire meet was scrubbed because of damage from Hurricane Hermine. In 2017 Hurricane Irma was producing sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, but that was more than a thousand miles from Apalachee Regional Park, where the weather was perfect for cross-country running. The meet opened with a 3K race for middle school girls, starting six minutes after the scheduled time of 6:00 PM. Paige Churchill, the defending Leon County Schools cross-country champion, went to the front almost immediately. She had company, though, from Swift Creek eighth-grader Elise Ferguson.

"Elise was really pushing me, especially towards the beginning," recalled Churchill.

Elise Ferguson and Paige Churchill

By the halfway point, though, Ferguson had fallen back and Churchill was alone in the lead. So it remained the rest of the way, and Churchill crossed the finish line with a winning 13:06. Ferguson was second in 13:12. In a battle of two Deerlake seventh graders, Maya Tang edged Layla Thompson for third, 13:17 to 13:20.

Swift Creek put one more athlete in the top ten when seventh-grader Alima Hemenway finished fifth in 13:26. Deerlake answered with two more top ten finishes--seventh-grader Nicole Kelly was ninth in 13:54 and eighth-grader Kendall Meyer was tenth in 13:56. Deerlake eighth-grader Scout Causey was right behind, eleventh in 13:57, giving Deerlake 37 points and first place in a field of seven teams. Swift Creek was a close second with 41. Led by the sixth-grader Livia Rose Clark (7th, 13:52), Montford placed third with 67 points.

Maya Tang
Maya Tang

The Swift Creek Invitational was just the first of five meets in the Leon County Schools' season. Paige Churchill has already been through the circuit in 2016, and has a good idea what to expect.

"I'm looking forward to the Montford Meet," said Churchill. "I liked how the course was shaded."

2017 Swift Creek Invitational Team Standings, Girls
  1. Deerlake, 37
  2. Swift Creek, 41
  3. Montford, 67
  4. Raa, 133
  5. Cobb, 151
  6. Fairview, 162
  7. Fort Braden, 179
  8. Griffin, NTS
  9. Nims, NTS

Top Ten Girls, 2017 Swift Creek Invitational
  1. 13:05.25, Paige Churchill (Swift Creek) 7
  2. 13:11.81, Elise Ferguson (Swift Creek) 8
  3. 13:16.63, Maya Tang (Deerlake) 7
  4. 13:19.26, Layla Thompson (Deerlake) 7
  5. 13:25.03, Alima Hemenway (Swift Creek) 7
  6. 13:37.32, Parker Matherne (Cobb) 8
  7. 13:51.09, Livia Rose Clark (Montford) 6
  8. 13:52.07, Caroline Cummings (Montford) 8
  9. 13:53.46, Nicole Kelly (Deerlake) 7
  10. 13:55.09, Kendall Meyer (Deerlake) 8

It may have been Churchill's second season in the league, but it was the first for Fairview's Patrick Koon. Koon was no stranger to cross-country; he came into the Swift Creek Invitational riding a three-race winning streak, having notched cross-country victories at the Miller Landing Madness 3K on 19 August 2017, the Cougar Cross-Country Challenge middle school boys' 3K on 26 August 2017, and the Big Bend Cross-Country Invitational Middle School Boys' 3K on 2 September 2017. Still, he may not have been expecting the level of competition in Leon County Schools meets. Right after the start of the Swift Creek Invitational boys' 3K, while Koon settled into a comfortable pace, Raa eighth-grader James Fygetakis-Gollop dashed out in front of everyone.

"I was like, wow, who's this kid," said Koon.

Patrick Koon

Patience paid off for Koon. About halfway through the race, as Fygetakis-Gollop faded, Koon took over the lead. He was unchallenged for the rest of the race, going on to win by more than 30 meters in 11:08. Deerlake eighth-grader Filippo Reina was second in 11:16, and Deerlake seventh-grader Wyatt Townsend took third in 11:20. Montford eighth-grader Ben Kirbo edged Fygetakis-Gollop for fourth, both runners clocked in 11:25.

Deerlake's next three scorers were eighth-graders William Wilkerson (8th, 11:35), Jonas Wars (10th, 11:41), and Matt Reynolds (11th, 11:43), giving the team a winning score of 37 points. Swift Creek was second in the nine-team field with 58 points, led by their top runner, seventh-grader Connor Edwards (7th, 11:34). Montford placed third with 83 points.

Swift Creek Invitational Boys' 3K
Boys' 3K

Brian Corbin timed and scored the Swift Creek Invitational Middle School Cross-Country Meet. The Leon County Schools' 2017 middle school cross-country season continues with the Fort Braden Run on Thursday evening, 14 September 2017; the Everhart Invitational on Thursday afternoon, 21 September 2017; the Mustang Stampede at Montford on Thursday evening, 28 September 2017; and concludes with the LCS Championship Meet at Apalachee Regional Park on Thursday evening, 5 October 2017.

2017 Swift Creek Invitational Team Standings, Boys
  1. Deerlake, 34
  2. Swift Creek, 58
  3. Montford, 83
  4. Raa, 108
  5. Cobb, 114
  6. Fairview, 151
  7. Fort Braden, 229
  8. Griffin, 251
  9. Nims, 258

Top Ten Boys, 2017 Swift Creek Invitational
  1. 11:07.71, Patrick Koon (Fairview) 6
  2. 11:15.08, Filippo Reina (Deerlake) 8
  3. 11:19.03, Wyatt Townsend (Deerlake) 7
  4. 11:24.56, Ben Kirbo (Montford) 8
  5. 11:24.87, James Fygetakis-Gollop (Raa) 8
  6. 11:30.48, Nate Thompson (Montford) 7
  7. 11:33.77, Connor Edwards (Swift Creek) 7
  8. 11:34.51, William Wilkerson (Deerlake) 8
  9. 11:35.99, Eric Stillman (Swift Creek) 7
  10. 11:40.52, Jonas Wars (Deerlake) 8


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