Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bolles and Plant visit Tallahassee, leave with the Big Bend Cross-Country titles

On Saturday morning, 31 August 2019, west of Tallahassee, Florida, the third annual Big Bend Invitational Cross-Country Meet was under way in Apalacheee Regional Park. The first race, the high school girls' 5K, was finishing up. Bolles School coach Tony Ryan turned away from the home stretch. The last of his athletes had already gone by.

"I'm getting too old for this," cracked Ryan.

Caitlin Wilkey

You wouldn't guess it by the performance of his team. The Bolles girls logged 29 points, easily winning the race. Chiles High senior Caitlin Wilkey took first in the 5K, running 18:37. The Plant High boys, visiting from Tampa, Florida, were the top team in the boys' 5K, scoring 38. Maclay senior Junious Brown posted a 16:14, winning the boys' race for the second year in a row.

It was an iffy weekend for sports in the Sunshine State. A major hurricane, Dorian, was churning up the Atlantic east of the Bahamas and threatening to make landfall in Florida. The Florida State vs. Boise State football game had been moved out of Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Nor was cross-country immune to the state's storm preparations. In South Florida, the Florida Atlantic Invitational, slated for 30 August 2019, had been canceled. But in North Florida, the Big Bend Invitational went ahead as scheduled. The only inclement weather was heat and humidity, typical for the time of year.

Alyson Churchill

The girls' 5K started around 8:15 AM, after the runners in the Open 5K had cleared the course. Alyson Churchill, a Chiles senior, grabbed the lead. As a frosh, Churchill had won the 2016 class 3A state title on the Apalachee Regional Park course. Halfway through the Big Bend race, she was 70 meters ahead of the next runner, and looked likely to add another ARPXC win to her resume. It would also be Churchill's second win of the season. A week earlier, she had won the girls' 5K at Chiles' opening meet, the Dueling Summits. But Chiles senior Caitlin Wilkey hadn't raced at Dueling Summits.

"I was taking the SAT," explained Wilkey.

Ella Mickler and Elizabeth Csikai

During the second half of the Big Bend 5K, Wilkey closed the 70-meter gap that Churchill had opened. That margin was gone with half a kilometer left in the race, when the two runners had made their final trip over The Wall, the Apalachee Regional Park course's infamous hill.

"I passed Alyson at the top of The Wall," said Wilkey. "I saw an opportunity and I took advantage of it."

Wilkey drove towards the finish, leaving Churchill behind. At the line, it was Wilkey first in 18:37 with Churchill runner-up in 18:48. Bolles frosh Elizabeth Csikai placed third in 19:44. Another Bolles frosh, Ella Mickler, edged Leon junior Avery Calabro for fourth, 19:50 to 19:51.

Bolles girls

The Bolles girls put three more runners in the top ten, with junior Maxine Montoya sixth in 19:52, frosh Jillian Candelino seventh in 20:09, and junior Layne Rivera ninth in 20:38. Once Rivera was home, Bolles had 29 points and the win. The Chiles girls, the 2018 Big Bend champs, were second with 46 points. Leon was third in the fourteen-team field with 97 points.

Team Standings, 2019 Big Bend Invitational High School Girls' 5K
  1. Bolles, 29
  2. Chiles, 46
  3. Leon, 97
  4. South Walton, 135
  5. Wakulla, 140
  6. Maclay, 203
  7. Deerfield-Windsor, 205
  8. Lincoln, 220
  9. Community Christian, 220
  10. Valdosta, 248
  11. Florida State University, 299
  12. Jefferson County, 307
  13. Franklin County, 400
  14. Saint John Paul II Catholic, 417

Top Ten, 2019 Big Bend Invitational High School Girls' 5K
  1. 18:36.60, Caitlin Wilkey (Chiles) 12
  2. 18:48.00, Alyson Churchill (Chiles) 12
  3. 19:43.60, Elizabeth Csikai (Bolles) 9
  4. 19:49.10, Ella Mickler (Bolles) 9
  5. 19:50.80, Avery Calabro (Leon) 11
  6. 19:51.50, Maxine Montoya (Bolles) 11
  7. 20:08.20, Jillian Candelino (Bolles) 9
  8. 20:24.70, Megan Churchill (Chiles) 12
  9. 20:37.30, Layne Rivera (Bolles) 11
  10. 20:37.80, Lillian Unger (Leon) 11

Junious Brown is a fan of the Apalachee Regional Park Cross-Country Course.

"I love it! It's amazing," said Brown. "And so convenient as well, right here in town."

Junious Brown

Winning the Big Bend Invitational in both 2018 and 2019 could have something to do with Brown's love for ARPXC. After two kilometers of the 2019 race, there still half a dozen runners in the lead pack, a group paced by Brown. Half a kilometer later, after cresting The Wall for the first time, only two other runners were still with Brown--South Florida HEAT senior Joseph Anderton and Leon sophomore Jackson Yarbrough. After another half kilometer, Brown left Anderton and Yarbrough behind.

"I just figured they're probably still recovering from the hill," reasoned Brown. "So I glided on the next downhill and made a move on the uphill."

Jackson Yarbrough, Joseph Anderton, Junious Brown

By the four-kilometer mark, Brown had broken the race open. He finished the race in a winning 16:14, just ten seconds off his best time ever at ARPXC. Anderton was second in 16:30. Yarbrough held off Plant senior Keith Gibson for third, both runners clocked in 16:48.

Gibson was joined in the top ten by two of his Plant teammates, sophomore Ryan Maney (7th, 16:55) and junior Wynne Thomas (9th, 17:04). Sophomore Ashton Stringer (11th, 17:20) and senior William Carlson (12th, 17:23) completed Plant's score, giving their team 38 points and first place among fifteen teams. Chiles, led by senior Hawthorne Hay (5th, 16:49) and junior Nathan Reffitt (6th, 16:49), took second with 47 points. Leon was third with 63 points.

Joseph Anderton

Team Standings, 2019 Big Bend Invitational High School Boys' 5K
  1. Plant, 38
  2. Chiles, 47
  3. Leon, 63
  4. Lincoln, 139
  5. Maclay, 141
  6. Deerfield-Windsor, 188
  7. Wakulla, 229
  8. South Walton, 250
  9. Community Christian, 268
  10. Valdosta, 282
  11. Florida State University, 326
  12. North Florida Christian, 342
  13. Saint John Paul II Catholic, 353
  14. Jefferson County, 383
  15. Franklin County, 387

Top Ten, 2019 Big Bend Invitational High School Boys' 5K
  1. 16:13.10, Junious Brown IV (Maclay) 12
  2. 16:29.80, Joseph Anderton (South Florida HEAT) 12
  3. 16:47.20, Jackson Yarbrough (Leon) 10
  4. 16:47.80, Keith Gibson (Plant) 12
  5. 16:48.10, Hawthorne Hay (Chiles) 12
  6. 16:48.40, Nathan Reffitt (Chiles) 11
  7. 16:54.90, Ryan Maney (Plant) 10
  8. 16:57.10, Ben Kirbo (Chiles) 10
  9. 17:03.60, Wynne Thomas (Plant) 11
  10. 17:07.30, Jake Rogers (Leon) 9

The first Big Bend Invitational was scheduled for 3 September 2016, but the meet had to be canceled when damage from Hurricane Hermine shut down ARPXC. When the Big Bend Invitational debuted a year later, Clifton Lewis was there, racing in the middle school girls' 3K. She ran that event again at the 2018 Invitational. Lewis competed in the 3K a third time in 2019, and this time the sixth-grader won the race, running 12:19. Emerald Coast seventh-graders took the next two places with Annabelle Melberg second in 12:29 and Madilynn Jersey third in 12:41.

Clifton Lewis

Emerald Coast put two more athletes in the top ten, with eighth-grader Wren Hall sixth in 13:30 and seventh-grader Claire Griner eighth in 14:00. Seventh-grader Vivian Peele wrapped up the scoring for Emerald Coast, placing thirteenth in 14:25 and giving the Stingrays a winning 24 points.

Led by sixth-grader Lillian Koeppel (5th, 13:18), the Maclay girls were second in the six-team field with 35 points. Wakulla took third, scoring 85 points behind the ninth-place finish of eighth-grader Liliana Lewis (14:02).

Team Standings, 2019 Big Bend Invitational Middle School Girls' 3K
  1. Emerald Coast, 24
  2. Maclay, 35
  3. Wakulla, 85
  4. Marianna, 127
  5. Community Leadership, 132
  6. Valdosta, 136

Top Ten, 2019 Big Bend Invitational Middle School Girls' 3K
  1. 12:18.10, Clifton Lewis (Unattached) 6
  2. 12:28.80, Annabelle Melberg (Emerald Coast) 7
  3. 12:40.10, Madilynn Jersey (Emerald Coast) 7
  4. 12:58.20, Sophia Youngberg (Montford) 7
  5. 13:17.60, Lillian Koeppel (Maclay) 6
  6. 13:29.30, Wren Hall (Emerald Coast) 8
  7. 13:41.80, Payton Thumm (Maclay) 7
  8. 13:59.70, Claire Griner (Emerald Coast) 7
  9. 14:01.50, Liliana Lewis (Wakulla) 8
  10. 14:09.50, Lauren Guyer (Maclay) 7

In the middle school boys' 3K, Noah Deem, a seventh-grader racing in the colors of Community Leadership Academy, grabbed his first win of the 2019 season, running 11:19. Behind Deem, two eighth-graders dueled for the runner-up spot--Will Springer of Holy Comforter and Carter Ward of Emerald Coast. Springer broke away during the final kilometer to take second in 11:29; Ward was third in 11:35.

Noah Deem

Ward's third-place showing led the Emerald Coast boys to the top spot in the team standings. Ward; seventh-graders Matthew Minton (5th, 12:08), Kobe White (11th, 12:38), and Jaiden Weede (16th, 13:21); and eighth-grader Hudson Railton (39th, 15:19), totaled a winning score of 53 points for the Stingrays. Marianna was second among the seven teams with 72 points, led by the fifteenth-place, 13:17 performance of eighth-grader Richie Barnes. Seventh-grader Rollins Miller of Maclay was fourth in 11:49, leading his team to third place with 81 points.

Team Standings, 2019 Big Bend Invitational Middle School Boys' 3K
  1. Emerald Coast, 53
  2. Marianna, 72
  3. Maclay, 81
  4. Valdosta, 87
  5. Florida State University, 118
  6. Community Leadership, 123
  7. Christ Classical, 136

Top Ten, 2019 Big Bend Invitational Middle School Boys' 3K
  1. 11:18.80, Noah Deem (Community Leadership) 7
  2. 11:28.20, Will Springer (Holy Comforter) 8
  3. 11:34.80, Carter Ward (Emerald Coast) 8
  4. 11:48.60, Rollins Miller (Maclay) 7
  5. 12:07.30, Matthew Minton (Emerald Coast) 7
  6. 12:09.60, Jonah Berry (GCU Elite Racing) 8
  7. 12:10.30, Reece Juno (Franklin County) 8
  8. 12:16.20, Peter Boulware (Community Leadership) 7
  9. 12:24.20, AJ LaMothe (Montford) 8
  10. 12:31.40, Hayne Miller (Maclay) 7

Big Bend Invitational Cross-Country Meet champs, 2017-2019
High School Boys
DateWinning TeamsIndividual Winners
2 September 2017Chiles, 22 points15:51, Michael Phillips (Chiles) 12
1 September 2018Niceville, 4617:00, Junious Brown IV (Maclay) 11
31 August 2019Plant, 3816:14, Junious Brown IV (Maclay) 12
High School Girls
DateWinning TeamsIndividual Winners
2 September 2017Chiles, 27 points19:02, Ana Wallace (Chiles) 12
1 September 2018Chiles, 2718:53, Lillian Holtery (Niceville) 10
31 August 2019Bolles, 2918:37, Caitlin Wilkey (Chiles) 12
Middle School Boys
DateWinning TeamsIndividual Winners
2 September 2017Montford, 21 points12:09, Patrick Koon (Fairview) 6
1 September 2018Liza Jackson, 3912:16, Clayton Knox (Maclay) 8
31 August 2019Emerald Coast, 5311:19, Noah Deem (Community Leadership) 7
Middle School Girls
DateWinning TeamsIndividual Winners
2 September 2017Riversprings, 24 points14:57, Stella Lewis (Panhandle Express) 7
1 September 2018Ruckel, 3612:47, Rory Claussen (Shaldera Panthers) 7
31 August 2019Emerald Coast, 2412:19, Clifton Lewis (Unattached) 6


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