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In it for the Long Run

Francisco Ramirez sprints to the finish.

WPHS

Caleb Confusione, Staff Member

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This past Saturday, September 4th, nineteen schools’ boys and girls cross country teams gathered at Thomas L. Sims Middle School to compete in the annual Patriot Invitational race. Clear, blue skies and a light breeze were a pleasant surprise to the runners as heavy thunderstorms had been originally predicted in the forecast. After an arduous summer workout routine and nearly a month of training after school, both Pace’s boys and girls teams were eager to run on their home course for the first meet of the year. And each of them put on quite a show.

The girls’ team is under the guidance of first year coach and avid runner Mrs. Kathleen Carroll. Carroll has had the girls on a rigorous workout schedule to achieve stellar results at the Patriot and carry that momentum into the rest of the season. Team captain Erica Fisher excitedly describes the dedication the girls have had to the team. “I’m really proud of the girls for working so hard this past summer to prepare for this season,” says Fisher. However, what was even more vital than any practice to the team as they entered this meet was their mindset. The team has established their motto for the year, and it speaks volumes to the camaraderie that exists among the girls. Their slogan is as follows: “Run as One, Work as a Team, Finish as a Family.”

On the other hand, the boys’ squad is returning for another season under the humble Coach Scott Denny. This year, though, the boys’ team has several brand new runners, and their entire roster totals to 40 runners in all, the most the program has seen in years. Many of these runners bring impressive speed to the table; in fact, four of the top ten Varsity runners at the Patriot were freshmen, which has never happened on Pace’s team before. Freshman Spencer Barton was ranked at number six on the boys Varsity team heading into the Patriot, and had a fun but competitive outlook on the race. Barton said, “It felt like I was going into a contest with all of my best friends.”  With a bright future ahead, the boys are looking to integrate a new generation of runners with raw talent into a cohesive team with more experienced veteran runners.

At the meet, the Girls’ Varsity race was the first to commence at 8:00 sharp. Pace’s Josey Gregory got off to a great start in the race and stayed with the front pack to the very end of the final lap. Gregory finished with a season personal record of 20:00 and placed second overall in the race. When asked about her mentality regarding the race, Gregory said, “Most of the race is already determined just by someone’s mindset before the race; when you feel like you can’t do anymore, you’ve probably only tapped into half of what you can really do.” In addition to Gregory’s excellent run, an even bigger accomplishment is the collective first place finish that the Pace’s girls team earned. This result gives the team a huge boost in the district rankings as well as a mental boost towards their ultimate goal of competing at the State Championship this year. “We are hoping to take the district championship trophy and proceed on to regionals. Our goal as a team is to qualify for state, and as of  right now I think our chances are pretty good. We have some great girls running this year and a strong varsity team!” says Fisher.

At the Boys’ Varsity race, Francisco Ramirez was the star of the show. Ramirez started off in front of everyone and simply stayed there for the remainder of the race. The sophomore breezed by every other runner and finished with a staggering all-time personal record of 17:22. “When I went into the race, I was just looking to get top 15,” says Ramirez, “Then I got to the front of the pack and just stayed there. When I saw the guy from South Walton fall back, I knew I could win.” Ramirez made a huge contribution to the team’s overall third place finish. With a youthful group and a couple of key runners out due to injury, a third place finish is a positive result that the boys can take and build upon.

Pace also had many notable finishers in the Junior Varsity race. Drake Lloyd came out in first place overall in the JV race with a time of 20:06. Despite his victory, Lloyd was more overwhelmed with the dreadful heat in the race. Lloyd said, “I’m pretty sure my sweat could have made a pool.” Also, Pace’s girls’ JV team took the first and second place spots among the girls Junior Varsity runners. Kylie Snow placed first with a time of 26:34 and Aubrey Welty came in close behind for second with a time of 26:40. The success in the Junior Varsity race promises a steady flow of runners constantly pushing the current Varsity runners to earn their spots.

This year’s Patriot Invitational made obvious just how talented Pace’s cross country teams are this year. However, both teams know that there is still plenty of work to be done. As the wise Coach Denny continuously reminds his team: “Never get satisfied, and stay hungry!”

 

 

 

 

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