Article by Grant Mollett, M.Ed.
East Ridge High School
Gainesville -Saturday morning the East Ridge High School girls cross country season came to an end with the conclusion of the Class 4A Region 1 Championships at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. The meet showcased some of the best female runners in the state of Florida. The top eight teams and the top fifteen individuals at the regional meet qualified for the FHSAA State Finals. However, for eleven teams, the finish line at the regional course meant the finish line for the 2019 cross country season.
For East Ridge High School the regional meet is considered a celebration for the girls cross country team, as only six teams in the school’s eighteen-year history have advanced to the regional meet. Also, the regional meet is viewed as a special opportunity to advance to the state championships, and in East Ridge’s history, there have only been two individual female runners and one team to advance to the state championships. This season’s regional meet was both a celebration of a successful season and a special opportunity for advancement to the state meet, and the regional meet provided an opportunity for East Ridge’s girls to have peak performances characterized by a competitive team spirit and individual courage.
Girls from 19 different schools made up a large field of 137 total runners who all competed Saturday morning in the Class 4A Region 1 Championships. The girls’ race went off at 8:00 am – just past the sunrise of a brisk north-central Florida morning. The Knights earned their regional berth through their qualifying performance at last week’s Class 4A District 2 Championships at West Orange High School. Under a cloudy sky with damp conditions and the temperature locked at 59 degrees, the regional race began, and the Knights raced their second consecutive regional meet.
The first Knight through the finish chute was senior Reagan Parks. Reagan darted out of the starting box to secure a position among some of the elite runners in central and north Florida. She rounded the first-mile marker in a time of 6:08, which had her spotted in fourteenth place. Reagan was determined to keep her positioning within and as close to, the top fifteen as she could, as the top fifteen individuals advance to the state championships. As the race continued, Reagan dropped a few positions as she settled into the second mile. Parks was spotted in 23rd place at the second-mile marker. Reagan, and a host of other state-qualifying hopefuls put on a courageous show of competition and desire, as they hustled through the third mile of the race.
Reagan placed 26thoverall and finished in a time of 20:09 in what was the third regional meet of her high school career, and the last cross country meet of her high school career. Reagan had the courage to test her running threshold by keeping in close proximity to the region’s best runners throughout the entire race. Although Reagan did not qualify for the state finals, she did have some outstanding performances as a senior and left her mark on East Ridge’s cross country program. She led her team in all ten of the meets she participated in this season. Additionally, she set a career personal best time of 19:56, and became only the third female in East Ridge High School’s history to break the 20:00 mark in a 5K. She also claimed her first individual championship by winning the Celtic Invitational in Ocala last month. Reagan’s performance at Santa Fe in the regional meet this season outshined her performance on the same course at the regional meet last season, as she improved her time by nearly one minute and improved her position by 23 places!
The second Knight to cross the finish line was junior Mackenzie Hill. Mackenzie finished the regional meet in a time of 20:55 and placed 53rd overall. Compared to last season’s regional meet, Mackenzie improved her finish time by more than a minute and improved her position by 36 spots. Mackenzie’s breakthrough performance earned her a new season personal best! Mackenzie’s season was highlighted by medaling in four different meets – the Whispering Pines Invitational, the Mount Dora Christian Invitational, the Weeki Wachee Invitational, and the Celtic Invitational. Mackenzie looks forward to leading her team back to the regional championships next season!
The third Knight to finish was junior Olivia Peine. Olivia’s regional performance landed her a new career personal best time – 22:14. Today’s performance for Olivia was more than a minute faster than her performance at the regional meet last season! Olivia placed 96th overall. The fourth Knight to finish was freshman Bre Peine. Bre, like her older sister, finished with a new career personal best time – 22:17. Bre placed 100th overall. Freshman Alanis Melgar rounded out the scoring positions for the Knights this morning by placing 116th. Alanis also set a career personal best time at the regional meet – 23:14! Junior Heidy Castillo finished the regional meet with a new career personal best – 24:08! Heidy finished in 121st place. With these four girls earning their career personal best times, they will return next season to help propel the Knights to a third consecutive regional berth!
The seventh Knight to finish was junior Mia Vogel-Lag. Mia’s regional performance was hindered by some late-season soreness in her foot, hip, and quadriceps. Despite the pain, Mia put out one last courageous performance for herself and her teammates. Mia, an international student from Norway, helped propel the team to success in several of the meets this season. Her best performance of the season came at the Hawks on the Hill Invitational where she finished in a time of 23:14.
East Ridge finished fifteenth out of nineteen complete teams. The eight female teams from Class 4A Region 1 that qualified for the state meet were Chiles, Mandarin, Creekside, Niceville, Oviedo, Buchholz, Fleming Island, and Spruce Creek. Chiles High School won the regional championship by placing four girls in the top twenty-two. Mandarin High School was the regional runner up, and clinched that spot by placing five girls in the top twenty-five. Senior Ashley Klingenberg of Lake Brantley High School was the individual regional champion, as she finished in a time of 18:20 to claim her regional crown. These teams and other qualifying individuals will compete at the FHSAA State Finals in Tallahassee on Saturday, November 9.
(photos are courtesy of parent Michelle Peine and alumnus Cassidy Carroll).
Both teams at the Regional Meet after the race
For full results from the Class 4A Region 1 Meet visit http://elitetiming.net/live-results/2019/20191102-4ar1/.
Grant Mollett coaches the Girls’ Cross Country Varsity Team, is the Social Studies Department Chairperson, AP World History and AP European History Teacher, and Varsity Boys’ Basketball Assistant Coach. He is also a contributing writer for the SOUTH LAKE TABLET.
Thank you Grant Mollett for all you do.