ERHS Girls Knights at Darter Invitational. Photo courtesy of Dave Worthington.

by Grant Mollett, M.Ed., East Ridge High School

Apopka (September 15) The East Ridge High School girls varsity cross country team understands the importance of each and every one of its team members and their impact on the success of the team at the meets.  As a team, winning consistently does not come easy, as teams are challenged by fatigue, sickness, and injury in a typical cross country season. Additionally, district opponents will improve, weather conditions get better, and that will also cause improvement for runners.  The dynamic nature of tracking the progress of a team over the long haul of a cross country season is as complex as it is fascinating. Success is not achieved by merely the top performers, but by a total team effort.

On Saturday, the Knights put together their best total team performance of the season, as they competed in the Annual Darter Cross Country Invitational at the Northwest Recreation Complex in Apopka.

Girls from 19 different schools throughout Central Florida competed in the Darter Invitational on Saturday morning.  The morning’s weather conditions were immensely better than the mornings of the season’s previous meets.  The sun was bright, but there was a dryness and a coolness in the morning’s air that made for prime conditions.

The first runner for East Ridge High School to come across the finish line was senior Alexis Hill.  Alexis worked hard in the final mile of the race to improve her position against her district rivals and edged out two girls in the final seconds of the race to secure a 7thplace finish in a field of 108 female runners.  Alexis recorded a finish time of 21:11- a new personal season-best time.  Junior Reagan Parks was the second team scorer for the Knights.  Reagan followed her teammate in to place 10thoverall. She finished in a time of 21:14, which was also a new personal season-best time.

photo courtesy of Dave Worthington.

The third Knight to finish was sophomore Mackenzie Hill.  Mackenzie finished in 22ndplace with a finish time of 22:44.  Senior Cassidy Carroll was the fourth scorer for the varsity team this morning.  She placed 26thand came across the line in a time of 23:00. Both Mackenzie and Cassidy worked hard to stay in favorable positions ahead of district rivals, which helped to push the Knights to a successful team placement in the meet.

photo courtesy of Dave Worthington.

The fifth runner for the Knights was sophomore Emy Wells.  She placed 33rdand posted a new season-best time of 23:43. Emy’s strong finish also allowed her to retain a favorable position against district rivals, which helped to propel the Knights to team success.  Sophomore Olivia Peine was the sixth runner for East Ridge this morning. Olivia placed 41stand finished in a time of 24:12 – a new career personal best performance.  Senior Eliya Anderson also posted a new career personal best with a finish time of 24:25.  Eliya placed 46thoverall.  The final runner for the Knights was senior Haley Dykstra. Haley finished in a season-best time of 32:50.

East Ridge’s first five knew that a total team effort was what they had to do in order to defeat their district rivals at the Darter Invitational, and they did just that. East Ridge was able to fend off district rivals Olympia High School, West Orange High School, Evans High School, and Ocoee High School.  The total team effort resulted in East Ridge finishing in second place of the fourteen schools that fielded complete teams at the Darter Invitational. District rival Windermere High School took first overall in the team scores by securing three of the top ten positions and placing their fourth and fifth scorers in the top twenty.  The overall winner for the girls’ varsity race was junior Ariana Jiminez from Apopka High School. She finished the race in a time of 19:53.

The girls cross country team will travel to Lakeland to compete in the Invitational 19 at Holloway Park.

For full results from the Annual Darter Cross Country Invitational, visit

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