Local high school cross country runners waited as the Bobcat compact tractor was unloaded at the Harvard beach approach. It churned up the sand as it was driven away from the start-finish line of the Seabreeze Beach Run meet on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 20.
“It’s just part of it,” Seabreeze athletic director and cross country coach Brad Montgomery said. “Things happen, you just adapt and move on. That’s what the kids do when they run cross country. It’s all flat and then there’s a hill in front of them — they just take the challenge and move on.”
The disruption did not phase the Seabreeze boys and girls cross country teams which train at the beach once a week. Seabreeze's Hunter Shuler placed first for the boys while the Sandcrabs' Riley Hale and Mainland’s Kiera Williams crossed the finish line simultaneously in 23:50 for the girls.
“Riley Hale competed well all the way to the end,” Montgomery said. “Those two kids battled each other the whole way. At the finish line, it looked like they came across at the same time. They were smiling and looked like they were having a great time.”
Hale and Williams are the top runners for their teams. They met at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Asics Classic meet the previous weekend. At that time, they knew they would be competing throughout the season which was proven at the beach run.
“As soon as we started out, we were keeping the same pace and time as we were running,” Williams said. “We would cheer each other on. It was really good. Now we know who we’re supposed to go against. We are each other’s person. It’s a friendly rivalry. At the end, we are going to put everything into it.”
Williams’ goal for the season is to run in the 20s or beat 20 minutes.
“Personally, I always look forward to setting a new (personal record) but you can’t really set a new PR without the competition, so I feel like with having that competition (with Hale) we will just push each other to even better and even faster than what we planned to begin with, so it’s great,” Williams said.
Personally, I always look forward to setting a new (personal record) but you can’t really set a new PR without the competition, so I feel like with having that competition (with Hale) we will just push each other to even better and even faster than what we planned to begin with, so it’s great. — Kiera Williams, Mainland cross country runner
Hale started the season at 23:17 and ran a personal-record 22:16.7 at the Tohopekliga XC Invitational at Austin Tindall Park in Kissimmee on Sept. 23. Following the transfers of Arianna and Mackenzie Roy to Spruce Creek High School, she has changed her perspective.
“I am happy for them,” she said. “But I just needed to step up and run harder. I just did it to do it my first two years, but this year I actually enjoy it and want to get better.”
Shuler, a sophomore, said his father Paul Shuler, a Seabreeze math teacher and coach, has been helpful with reaching his goals along with running track last year which has been instrumental in improving his times. He would like to finish the season with a time under 16 minutes.
“I’ve been running super fluid and I’m not tired when I run these races,” he said. “I’ve been feeling strong. I feel that is a sign that I’m going to be strong in these difficult races in these places where it’s going to be very hard to beat teams.”
Shuler placed 21st out of 182 runners with a 17:06.08 at the Tohopekaliga XC Invitational. His PR is 16:58.5.
He attributes a shift in his attitude toward running to the Spanish word ganas which is used in the movie “Stand and Deliver”.
“The word ganas means “desire” in Spanish,” he said. “I learned a lot from that movie because it taught me that all of these races I’m running now, they are hurting like hell, but I didn’t have the ganas to push to the next level (last season). I feel like now is the time to push to the next level no matter how bad it’s going to hurt and no matter how my legs are tiring. I feel like I have the desire now.”