State 4A Cross Country - STA Girls Placed 3rd and Boys 6th
November 20, 2011St. Thomas Aquinas High School
State title eludes Heritage
BY FABIAN LYON The Miami Herald
An apparent victory turned into a fifth-place finish for American Heritage after two runners were disqualified.
BY FABIAN LYON
DADE CITY -- During a wild swing of emotions for the American Heritage girls’ cross-country team at the FHSAA Class 2A State Finals on Saturday, a second-place finish by seventh-grade phenom Daesha Rogers provided much-needed good news.
Rogers could not catch Cocoa Beach’s Shelby Davidson (17 minutes 55 seconds) but set herself up as the apparent heir to Davidson’s throne next season and beyond by clocking a personal-best 18:08.
“I am very satisfied with the way I ran, but I believe I could have pushed a little more to try and catch up to Davidson,’’ Rogers said. “Going into the third mile, the race got away from me a little bit.”
American Heritage’s Rachelle Alexander came charging at the finish line to finish fourth and an apparent one-point victory over Miami Carrollton for its first state title before a timing chip problem turned unbridled joy into dejection.
Officials disqualified the Patriots’ No. 3 and No. 7 runners after discovering they shared one of the two timing chips.
As a result, Carrollton was declared the state champion with 103 points with Heritage finishing fifth (202).
“When our third runner came across the line, the timing chip in her second shoe gave us points for another runner,’’ Patriots coach Maryellen Powers said. “It put another girl in where there wasn’t. This is disappointing from a team standpoint, and the girls will learn from this. The good thing is Daesha and Rachelle were spectacular.”
St. Thomas Aquinas overcame the loss of its No. 1 runner to enter as a co-favorite in 4A with Tampa Plant but fell short in its bid to claim an elusive state title. Meg Schloss (7), Alex Payne (8), Brianna Rischar (20), Giselle Suarez (21) and Marina Braynon-Moore (30) finished third with 77 points behind Plant (73) and Miami Ferguson (75).
“So close but yet so far,’’ Raiders coach Trish Butler said. “The No. 5 Ferguson girl beat like 10 people up that hill. That made the difference. This wasn’t about beating us. Flat out, if this was a dual meet we beat Ferguson, but just the way the points are scored made the difference. Still, this was the most successful season since 2006. We will be back next year. This is just the beginning.”
One of the most touching moments of the finals came when Sean Lyden, an individual state champion for Westminster Academy in 1990, raced across the Little Everglades Ranch infield to greet his daughter Adair, following her seventh-place finish in the Class 1A race. Sean Lyden scooped up Adair, the eighth-grader who set a personal-best 18:47, and then grabbed her in a hug.
“I am extremely proud,’’ Sean Lyden said. “I can’t describe the feeling, the gratification. What sets her apart is her heart and her drive. She is such a fierce competitor, and she will give everything she has. It is just a great trait to watch.”
Westminster Academy, with Lyden, seventh-grader Kristen Selbach (34th) and Brittany Carey (40th) helping the Lions post a team average of 20:56, finished fifth.
Pine Crest first-year coach Paul Baur was ecstatic over his girls’ team placing seventh for its highest finish since 1999. Ella Wurth and Savannah Gornisiewicz made it to the podium with eighth- and 10th-place finishes, respectively. Nicole Golden finished 32nd.
“It was just about competing today,’’ Baur said. “We had two girls in the top 10. Savannah who gave everything she had and just stumbled for the last 50 meters and stumbled to the finish line. To lay it all out and finish 10th, you can’t complain."