Sunday, October 29, 2017

Meagan Giddens claims TCC's first state cross-country title

It was Saturday morning, 28 October 2017. For the second year in a row, the Florida College System Activities Association held a state championship in women's cross-country. For the second year in a row, that state championship race was also the NJCAA Region 8 championship. For the second year in a row, the race was at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. And for the second year in a row, the Bobcats of Pasco-Hernando State College won the team title. But for the first time ever, a Tallahassee Community College athlete took the individual championship, when Eagle sophomore Meagan Giddens won the 5K race in 20:07.

Meagan Giddens
Meagan Giddens

"I was seeded third," said Giddens. "I wanted to get second. I was really happy to get first."

There were 37 athletes in the race that morning, up from the numbers in 2016 because of the addition of State College at Jacksonville to the field. Kylyn Burbine of Pasco-Hernando State set the pace during the first kilometer, closely followed by Kamryn Folger of South Florida State. The next three positions were held by Michaela Scruti of Florida State Jacksonville, Giddens of Tallahassee, and Quincy Mayer of Pasco-Hernando. The starting line is close to the highest part of the course, and much of the first two kilometers were spent descending to the lowest part of the course. After that, it was time to start heading back uphill to complete the first of two loops.

Qunicy Mayer
Quincy Mayer

"All the hill training made the difference," said Giddens, a Perry, Florida native. "The hills broke us up. That was the game changer. I felt strong going up the hills and I felt the other girls holding back."

Back on top of the course at the end of the third kilometer, Giddens had moved into second, trailed by Scruti and Burbine. Pasco-Hernando's Mayer had taken the lead. Mayer hadn't been cowed by the hills.

"We go to Saint Leo some Saturdays and run hills," explained Mayer. "I'm pretty confident on hills."

Michaela Scruti
Michaela Scruti

Early in the fourth kilometer, Giddens made her move.

"I stayed in second until the two-mile mark," said Giddens.

"She started pulling away after the second mile," said Mayer. "And the gap kept getting bigger."

Top five in the women's 5K at the 2017 FCSAA Cross-Country Meet
Top Five Women

With a kilometer to go, Giddens had a lead of five seconds. By the finish line that had grown to seventeen seconds, as Giddens ran home with a winning time of 20:07. Mayer was second in 20:24, and Scruti third in 20:42. After Mayer, Pasco-Hernando's remaining four scorers were each in the top eight, with Burbine fourth in 20:51, Lauren Hale fifth in 21:28, Skylyn Acuna sixth in 21:40, and Annaliese Besaw eighth in 22:26. Those five gave the Bobcats a mathematically unbeatable team score of 25 points and the schools' second straight state title. South Florida State edged Tallahassee for second, 67 to 69. Led by the seventh-place 21:53 of Haley Grayson, Florida State College at Jacksonville scored 86 points, placing fourth in their debut at the State Championship. Behind team leader Chelsee Cook-McGee (18th, 24:13), Chipola was fifth in the team standings with 123 points.

National Junior College Athletic Association cross-country continues to grow in Florida. In 2015, three schools had women's teams and there was no state championship. In 2016, Tallahassee Community College hosted the first state championship and four teams competed. In 2017, five teams were in the state championship. And in 2018?

Pasco-Hernando State cross-country team
2017 Pasco-Hernando State College Bobcats

"By next year we'll have two more teams," said TCC Athletic Director Rob Chaney. "Florida Gateway College and Daytona State are adding women's cross-country."

"My goal is to bring the NJCAA championship to this course right here," added Chaney.

Team Standings, 2017 FCSAA Cross-Country Championship
  1. Pasco-Hernando State, 25
  2. South Florida State, 67
  3. Tallahassee Community, 69
  4. State College at Jacksonville, 86
  5. Chipola, 123

Top Ten Women, 2017 FCSAA Cross-Country Championship
  1. 20:06.7, Meagan Giddens (Tallahassee Community)
  2. 20:24.0, Quincy Mayer (Pasco-Hernando State)
  3. 20:41.4, Michaela Scruti (Florida State College at Jacksonville)
  4. 20:50.9, Kylyn Burbine (Pasco-Hernando State)
  5. 21:27.6, Lauren Hale (Pasco-Hernando State)
  6. 21:39.3, Skylyn Acuna (Pasco-Hernando State)
  7. 21:52.2, Haley Grayson (Florida State College at Jacksonville)
  8. 22:25.3, Annaliese Besaw (Pasco-Hernando State)
  9. 22:27.2, Lexy Barraza (South Florida State)
  10. 22:33.4, Montana Gottman (Pasco-Hernando State)

NJCAA Region 8 Cross-Country Champions, 2016 - 2017
DateWinning TeamsWinning Athletes
4 November 2016Pasco-Hernando State, 33 points20:29, Charlene Sanchez (Pasco-Hernando State) SO
28 October 2017Pasco-Hernando State, 2520:07, Meagan Giddens (Tallahassee Community) SO


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