Cross Country State Finals: Polk Runners Clamor For Gold
Sat. November 19, 2011 at 10:00 p.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
By BILL KEMP
LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
DADE CITY | For Jose Perez, and several other runners, the strategy changes today.
The Haines City senior is one of three Polk County athletes who received at-large berths for the FHSAA state cross-country meet today at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City.
"This whole year I've been taking it easy for the first mile," Perez said, who finished 13th in the state with a 16.03.72 effort last year. "I'm coming out fast for this. It may be a smart way or it may be a dumb way, we'll just have to see."
Lakeland Christian's Mark Mutz (15:50.55) and All Saints' Ra Bemman (17:06.61) are running in Class 1A while Perez lines up in Class 3A.
Additionally, the Lake Region girls (3A) and McKeel Academy (1A) and Frostproof boys (2A) are running as teams after qualifying at last week's regional meets.
Haines City head coach Chuck Williams said there are very few people who can run their own style of race at the state meet – and those people are called state champions.
"During every championship race, there is a point when the leaders make a move. That's the critical point," Williams said. "You either go for it or not. It's a time to react. You can't make it up later."
The Lake Region girls, led by senior Jessica Ortiz (20:21.56), are making their fifth-straight state meet appearance. Last year, the Thunder finished 19th in Class 3A, and this year they find themselves seeded No. 20.
Thunder head coach George Whitmire also acknowledges the state meet is a whole different animal.
"In most meets, after 1½ miles, the race is over," Whitmire said. "But for state, you have to start fast and hang on."
Joining Oritz are seniors Emily Nabong (21:17) and Christina Guevara (21:54), junior Sirena Madrid (22:49) and sophomores Leah Jostes (21:45) and Julie Shierling (22:49).
McKeel fields just one senior, Mitchell Gulifer (19:04) and one junior Clay Logsdon (18:20). The Wildcats also sport the freshman trio of Leif Henrikson (17:42), Duncan Lippincott (17:50) and Dakota Jones (18:24) with sophomore Dustin White (17:42).
The Frostproof boys are led by freshman sensation Bob Vernon (18:07) and juniors Jose Martinez (18:48), Edgar Saldana (19;10) and Estevan Rivera (19:13), along with sophomores Marcelino Galarza (18:40) and Robert Aguilar (18:55). Freshman Fidel Perez (20:19) rounds out the roster.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: 2011-12 FHSAA cross country championships.
WHERE: Little Everglades Ranch, Dade City
Class 3A Girls - 8:30 a.m.
Class 4A Girls - 8:50 a.m.
Class 3A Boys - 9:10 a.m.
Class 4A Boys - 9:30 a.m.
Class 1A Girls - 9:50 a.m.
Class 2A Girls - 10:10 a.m.
Class 1A Boys - 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A Boys - 10:50 a.m.
ADMISSION: $9; 6 and younger free.