STA Girls Win State Cross Country Titles
November 19, 2012St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Pine Crest's Montgomery, St. Thomas Aquinas win state cross country titles
St. Thomas boys finish third in best showing ever
By Steve Gorten, Sun Sentinel
5:42 p.m. EST, November 17, 2012
TALLAHASSEE — Pine Crest freshman Julia Montgomery stunned herself, and runners around the state, by winning the Class 2A girls championship.
St. Thomas Aquinas' boys surprised as well, posting the best team finish in program history (third) despite losing almost all of their top runners from last season. And St. Thomas' girls unflinchingly delivered on enormous expectations, capturing the school's first cross country state title while decisively displacing the two-time defending champ. It was a historic Saturday morning for Broward County at Apalachee Regional Park, where several South Florida participants produced personal-best times and five claimed individual medals as top-10 finishers. The Raiders became the first girls team from Broward to win a team title since Coral Springs in 1989. Led by freshman Alexa Cruz, who finished second in 18:14.79, they totaled 59 points while Tampa Plant piled up 86. "The team did exceptional today! It just means the world to us to get it because we've just worked so hard this season and last year they lost by so little," Cruz said, referring to the Raiders finishing third in 2011 with four points fewer than Plant. "Last night, the pressure was really on for us as a team, and individually. We definitely needed to be at our prime today, because if not, it wouldn't have worked out." Said Raiders coach Trish Butler: "They did it convincingly. Not even a question this year."
Meanwhile, Montgomery became the county's first individual girls champ since Cooper City's Jessica Hellender in 2001. She crossed the finish line in 18:20.93, helping the Panthers finish second as a team (99) behind Jacksonville Bolles (58). "This means so much to me," Montgomery said, adding that before the season she hoped for a top-10 finish and "had no idea" a state title could be a possibility. "The past week or so people have been telling me, 'You can be state champion. You've got the guts and the strength.' But I never believed them. I just kept doubting myself. And it feels so good to know I do have the ability." A Broward girl had finished runner-up six times in the past decade, including American Heritage's Daesha Rogers last year. Rogers was expected to win Saturday, but after charging to the very front early, finished a disappointing third (18:40.88). Montgomery passed Rogers about half a mile into the race. "I felt like I had a good chance to win," Rogers said, tears streaming down the eighth-grader's face as she sat on the grass yards past the finish line. "I don't know what happened." Coral Glades junior Anthony Deleva and Cypress Bay junior Kat MacNeal also medaled. Deleva finished eighth (15:55.33) after 32nd last year and MacNeal finished seventh (18:49.02) after 49th last year. "I'm on the podium, so I'm really excited," MacNeal said. "This season started a little rocky, and I was kind of losing hope, but by the time districts and regionals came around I was doing well." St. Thomas dominated the 4A race. After Cruz, junior Christina Kalis (18:56.79), sophomore Brianna Rischar (19:00.82), junior Marina Braynon-Moore (19:12.13) and sophomore Megan Schloss (19:22.58) finished 11th, 13, 15th and 18th, respectively, beating out Plant's Nos. 3-5 runners, who finished 20th, 21st and 24th. "I'm really pleased with how they ran as a pack, stuck together and worked off each other," Butler said. St. Thomas' boys finished third with 127 points, topping their previous best of fifth place achieved in 2005. Alex Haugen finished 12th in 16:03.11, followed by teammates Matthew Butler (16th, 16:11.47) and Antony Cruz (21st, 16:17.59). "They knew the girls were going to be state champions and they wanted a part of [the glory] too, so they brought some attention to themselves," Butler said.
In other boys races, North Broward Prep junior Jonathan Klumpp finished 15th (16:37.46) in 2A, Westminster Academy junior Brandon Bejarano finished 26th (16:57.70) in 1A and Pembroke Pines Charter sophomore Carlos Penaranda finished 29th (16:13.96) in 3A.
email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @sgorten
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel