By Grant Mollett, M. Ed.
East Ridge High School
The East Ridge High School girls varsity cross country team traveled to Ocala to competein the Seventh Annual Trinity Catholic High School Celtic Invitational at Trinity Catholic High School. In 2018, the team had competed at this particular event and performed spectacularly, as they secured first place. In 2019, the Knights came to defend their invitational championship and raced hard to repeat last season’s triumph. The weather conditions were near perfect for runners, as the temperature sat at 65 degrees on a crisp Ocala morning.
Girls from seventeen different schools throughout Central Florida competed in the Seventh Annual Trinity Catholic High School Celtic Invitational on Saturday morning. In her final regular-season race of her high school career, senior Reagan Parks led the entire field of 71 female runners. Reagan established her lead in the fairway of the starting area, and never looked back. Parks swiftly moved along Trinity Catholic’s updated campus course, following the race director in the golf cart. In 2018 Reagan posted a 21:00 finish time at the meet and secured sixth place. This time around, she posted a 20:44 finish time and placed first overall, and was the Celtic Invitational individual champion! Reagan celebrated her last regular season meet of her high school career by winning her first invitational individual championship in her high school career! Junior Mackenzie Hill was the second Knight to cross the finish line on Saturday morning. Placing fourth overall, Mackenzie finished in a time of 21:57, which was an improvement of fifty seconds from her sophomore time at Trinity Catholic in 2018!
For the first mile of the race, East Ridge’s remaining four varsity runners ran in a fairly tight pack. Naturally, the pack broke apart, and the race thinned out. At the front of the pack, junior Olivia Peine led most of the remainder of the race, but in the final half-mile junior Mia Vogel-Lag was able to overcome her teammate. The third Knight to finish was junior Mia Vogel-Lag, placing eleventh overall and finishing in a time of 23:26 – just twelve seconds shy of a season personal best finish time. Junior Olivia Peine followed her teammate as the fourth scorer for the varsity team. Olivia placed twelfth overall and came across the finish line in a time of 23:34 – comparable to her time at Trinity last season.
The internal team competition did not end with Mia and Olivia, as freshmen Bre Peine and Alanis Melgar remained close to each other the entire race. The course had a short track finish in a straightaway of approximately 80 meters. Bre’s toes touched the track first, and her teammate swiftly followed her through the entry gate and onto the track. However, in the final stretch, it would be Alanis’s toes that would cross the finish line first. Alanis finished in seventeenth place in a time of 24:02.00, as she inched out Bre in the literal final second of their race. Bre finished in eighteenth place in a time of 24:02.80 – a new season personal best. The seventh runner for the Knights was junior Heidy Castillo. Heidy placed 21st and finished in a time of 24:26 – also a new season personal best!
East Ridge also had some runners compete in the junior varsity race on Saturday morning. Sophomore Peppa Marin placed fifth out of 27 total junior varsity female runners. She finished in a time of 26:43 – less than twenty seconds from her season personal best. Sophomore Mansi Patel finished in eleventh place, and in a time of 27:55 – a new season personal best time by more than two minutes! Freshman Alexandra Dimitros and Junior Myra Niang completed their first race of the season. Alexandra finished in 33:45 and Myra finished in 34:54.
East Ridge’s two frontrunners, Reagan and Mackenzie, along with the internal team competition between Mia and Olivia and between Alanis and Bre propelled the Knights to victory. East Ridge took first place, successfully defending their invitational title.
Saturday’s race ended the 2019 regular season for the girls’ cross country team. Now the focus for the team is the district meet. The girls will compete in the Class 4A District 2 meet on Saturday, October 26, at West Orange High School at 8:00 am. The top ten teams (of seventeen total teams) and top thirty individuals at the district meet will qualify for the Class 4A Region 1 meet the following week. Last year East Ridge was runner up at their district meet, and qualified for the regional meet. In a larger and more competitive district this season, the Knights seek their second consecutive regional qualification.
For individual results from the Seventh Annual Trinity Catholic High School Celtic Invitational visit https://drcsports.com/race-results/155.