Considering the circumstances, the Matanzas High School girls cross country runners were pleased with their performances at the Region 1-3A championships.
The Pirates hosted the regional meet on Saturday, Nov. 11, and finished fifth to qualify for the state championships for the third year in a row.
“It was a solid race,” senior Nina Rodriguez said. “We raced well as a team. We’re excited for states.”
It rained a couple of hours before the girls race, and the ground was “squishy,” Rodriguez said.
Matanzas was also forced to redesign the course because of the school’s expansion project.
“It’s kind of sad that their construction is right where our course was supposed to be,” senior Sierra Howard said.
Howard was the Pirates’ lone medal winner in the girls race. She placed 14th with her fastest time of the year — 20:20.1. Rodriguez finished 24th in 21:14.3. Freshmen Noemi Malikowski (21:41.1) and Lupita Galeano (21:59.2) were 30th and 37th, respectively.
Senior Chloe Irving was half a step behind Galeano in 38th place with a time of 21:59.6. The Pirates’ other runners were sophomore Sara Van Buren (41st, 22:13.8) and junior Maria Phillips (52nd, 22:36.5).
Matanzas senior Christian Norfolk qualified individually in the boys race with a personal record 17:06.0. Norfolk placed 19th for a medal spot.
The Class 3A girls race is scheduled to begin at 9:25 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. The 3A boys race is slated for 10:15 a.m.
Tallahassee Leon’s Patrick Koon is expected to win his third-straight state championship. He easily won the regional at Matanzas with a time of 15:24.5. He ran behind Gulf Breeze freshman Andrew Beroset for the first mile and three-quarters before turning on the jets. Beroset placed second in 15:47.0.
Matanzas assistant coach Lee Winfree, who rode a golf cart ahead of the runners to keep them on course, said he had to speed up when Koon began taking off.
Koon ran the sixth fastest high school 5K in history with a 14:11.92 at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March.
Lincoln finished second behind Fleming Island in the regional team standings. Ponte Vedra won the girls title with the Sharks’ Lindy White (18:36.2), Daisy Ross (18:40.6) and Hilaree Vega (18:59.7) taking the top three places.
The Matanzas girls placed 18th at state last year. Their goal this season has been to finish in the top 10, but coach Tim Kane said they’ll have to hit some PRs to be able to do that.
“Right now we're 13th to 15th,” Kane said. “But we haven't had a great run all season. Hopefully we'll have that on Friday morning.”
Howard said the team has more depth this year with the addition of Malikowski and Galeano.
“Last year our times were a little spread out. This year we’re a pack,” she said.