by Coach Timothy Ferrell, East Ridge High School

The East Ridge Boys Cross Country team finished seventh at the Deland Invitational on Saturday Morning at the Sperling Sports Complex in Deland, Florida. The boys were just edged out by one point as Matanzas High School, in St. Augustine, scored 206 points and East Ridge scored 207. Winning the race was perennial state qualifier Hagerty High School, who placed all five scoring runners in the top eleven. Taking home the runner-up trophy was New Smyrna High School with 118 points. Finishing behind New Smyrna Beach High School were fellow District foes Deland (132 points), Seminole (143 points) and West Orange High School (174 Points).

Despite the disappointing team finish, the Knights had several individual, record-setting performances that were very impressive. The Knights were once again led by Axel Sallault who broke the East Ridge Freshman record (which was his own record that he set the week earlier at Whispering Pines Invitational) in a time of 17:00. The time placed him eighth overall in a race featuring some of Central Florida’s toughest runners. Sophomore Caleb Walker finished behind Axel in a time of 18:20, placing him 30th overall. Fellow Sophomore Dylan McCleary had one of his best regular season performances, finishing just behind Caleb in a time of 18:47 and placing 36th overall. Freshman Tyce Ertel was extremely impressive as he set a personal best time of 19:54, placing 67th overall, and finishing fourth for the Knights, which is the highest he has finished as a Knight. Rounding out the scorers was Senior Kevin Lederer who overcame a leg cramp to run a time of 20:29 and 78th place.

In a rare move, the Deland Invitational meet managers decided to cancel the JV race and instead have all boys run in one combined race. This provided the opportunity for many Junior Varsity runners to be able to run with faster competition. Several runners stepped up, including Sophomore Gustavo Vargas, who ran in a personal best time of 20:48, placing 92nd overall. Gustavo continues to work hard and force his way onto the varsity team. Freshman Ethan Laack completed his race in a time of 21:17, good for 109th place. Another incredible and personal best time was run by Freshman Christopher Stuemke who finished in a time of 21:29, good for 112th place. Sophomore James Laack finished just behind Stuemke in a time of 21:37 (116th place). Sophomore Chase Ensor ran a personal best time of 23:23, shattering his PR time by almost a minute. Rounding out the Knights cross country performance included Fellow Freshmen Eli Parks (24:19) and John Hall (24:22), newcomer Gabriel Jayjack (25:33), and Sophomore Owen Degges (27:21). Making his first appearance of the year, Alexander Stuemke, finished in a time of 27:40. Sophomore Alexander Stewart finished a second behind Stuemke in a time of 27:41.

2023-XC-Deland-Sophomore Dylan McCleary

The Knights will be closer to home next Saturday at Lake Minneola High School. The girls’ varsity race is set to start at 7:30 am, followed by the boys’ race at 8:00 am. The JV race will follow the boys’ race at 8:30 am.

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