XC Whispering Pines Lakes

submitted by Coach Timothy Ferrell, East Ridge High School

The official 2023 Cross Country season kicked off for East Ridge High School on a very humid, but overcast Saturday Morning at Whispering Pines Park in Inverness. The annual cross country race was hosted by Citrus High School once again, as they have been the hosts for many years. The Knights have had ample success at the Whispering Pines Invitational, and Saturday was no different. With close to twenty teams from around the state of Florida present, the Knights were just edged out for third place and settled for fourth. The overwhelming winners of the race hailed from the Tampa area, George Steinbrenner High School, as they placed five of their scorers in the top seven. Finishing second was River Ridge High School, with two runners in the top ten propelling them. Third place West Port finished just ahead of East Ridge by a mere four points. Rounding out the top five was the host school, Citrus High School.

The Knights, who came into the race a bit short-handed missing one of their lone Seniors, Kevin Lederer, had to figure out a way to overcome their loss. The answer was a phenomenal effort by Freshman Axel Sallault, who once again brought his personal record time down to 17:02. Axel’s time was the fastest time any East Ridge runner has run at the Whispering Pines Invitational and a new East Ridge overall freshman record. This time broke the record-breaking time he put down last week at the NTC Invitational. Sallault has been a fascinating runner to watch and continues to carve up courses across Central Florida. Sallault’s running mate, Caleb Walker finished second for the Knights in a time of 18:15, just finishing outside of the top 10, in eleventh place. This is almost two whole minutes faster than his time last year at this very course! Finishing third for the Knights was Sophomore Dylan McCleary in a time of 18:59, which put him just outside the top 20 in 21st place. This time was well over two minutes faster than his 2022 time at the same race! Rounding out the scoring for the Knights was a Laack affair in which brothers James and Ethan were fourth and fifth, respectively. James just edged out Ethan for the 43rd spot, with both finishing in a time of 20:47. Freshman Tyce Ertel finished sixth for the Knights and placed 52nd in a time of 21:35. Sophomore Scott Bori anchored the Varsity Knights by placing 53rd in a time of 21:41.

The Junior Varsity Boys Cross Country team also finished fourth, just getting edged out for third by Belleview High School. The JV Knights were led by breakout Sophomore Gustavo Vargas, who placed 9th overall, in a time of 21:04. This was a huge performance by Gustavo, who broke his personal best time by over two minutes, despite taking a roundabout way to the finish. Finishing just behind Gustavo was freshman Christopher Stuemke, who finished in twelfth place in a time of 21:42. Fellow Freshmen John Hall and Eli Parks were third and fourth in the scoring for the Knights. Hall finished in a time of 23:52 and Parks completed his race in a time of 24:12. Rounding out the scoring for the Knights was Sophomore Owen Degges, completing the race in 26:55.

The East Ridge High School Cross Country team will be back in action at the Deland Invitational at the Sperling Sports Complex next Saturday, September 2nd, with the girls varsity taking off at 7:15 AM, followed by the boys varsity at 7:55 AM, being concluded with the JV team after the boys varsity race.

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