Tigers boys rehearse, Storm girls smash Harmony stronghold at OBC cross country

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It was overtime again, but this time with a twist, before the Tohopekaliga Men’s Cross Country Team walked away with their second straight Orange Belt Conference Championship on Wednesday afternoon at St. Cloud High School. .

Last season, coach Matt Fenn’s team won just the second OBC tag team championship in school history as the Tigers tied Celebration with 34 points. The sixth runner from Tohopekaliga crossed the line before the next runner from Celebration to secure the team title.

That was nothing compared to Wednesday, when it appeared Celebration had won the competition with a team score of 45, ahead of Tohopekaliga’s 46. However, a rider from another school ended up being disqualified from competing when he accidentally ran a loop in the race in the wrong direction.

The disqualification moved Tohopekaliga’s Darwin Vega down to 17th, which reduced the Tohopekaliga side’s score to 45 – tying Celebration. Like last year, the tie was broken by sixth runner and Tohopekaliga’s Marc Rodriguez (18th overall) was six places higher than Celebration’s Matias Edwards (24).

“Given the amount of talent we lost at graduation and how this team continues to improve each week, we’re happy with the win,” Fenn said. “Still, we certainly feel for Celebration and their team. A rider from another team made a mistake and we ended up getting out of it. Celebration put on a great race and should definitely consider themselves champions as well.

Tohopekaliga placed three riders in the top 10. Zeniel Lizardo (9:17:00) led the way with a third place finish. Javan Medina (17:06.28) and Johan Caamacho (17:35.57) finished fourth and sixth overall.

Harmony senior Joel Jean – who finished second to two-time champion Jared Falchook the previous two years – ran away with the individual honors at 16:26.08.

“I’ve been waiting for this for two years,” Jean said of her win. “I was able to break away pretty early and I feel really comfortable when I’m able to go out front alone. For some reason I just seem to be able to concentrate better.

His time was nearly 22 seconds faster than second-placed Evan Amaya from Celebration (16:48.39). Cooper James (17:43.39) and Sebastian Velez (18:04.18) also had top-10 performances for the Storm.

The top eight runners earn All-Conference honors. Alongside Jean, Amaya, Lizardo, Medina, Camacho and James on the All-OBC team were Poinciana runners Levi Lee (5th-17:20.89) and Gabriel Arce (8th-17:51.41) .

Harmony finished third (87); followed by Poinciana (103), Gateway (130), St. Cloud (164), Liberty (186) and Osceola (215).

There was no such drama in the girls’ race, as Celebration placed three runners in the top 10 and five in the top 15 to secure a 43-53 win over Harmony. The Storm’s win ended the Longhorns’ four-year reign.

“It’s great to finally come out on top. Harmony is always such a great team and we love playing against them. Coming in we knew it was going to be tight and we knew we had to have a good race. To finally win the OBC Championship is a total team effort,” said Storm Girls coach David Rains.

Rookie Gabriella DeCesare was Storm’s top runner, placing second overall in 20:42.22. Catalina Edwards, who won the individual title last year, was third in 21:19.33; while other tally scores came from Marissa McNiell (9th-23:18.73), Piper Morgan (14th-24:14.49) and Shayma Maldar (15th-24:20.56).

Outstanding Harmony sophomore Lailana Decker, who finished second to Edwards in last year’s race, dominated as she won her first OBC cross country title. His time of 19:50.75 was more than 50 seconds faster than DeCesare.

“It was great fun and a good race for me,” Decker said. “I was able to pull away at the start of the third mile and kind of put it on cruise control. The important thing is to continue to peak for the post-season.

Joining Decker, DeCesare and Edwards on the All-OBC team where a pair of Osceola runners like Mia Gonzales-Nunez (21:20.96) and Nicole Salcedo (21:22.55) finished fourth and fifth. Other winners of All-OBC honors include Isabella Halk of Gateway (6th-22:58.18), Kaitlyn Harkema of St. Cloud (7th-23:09.84) and Naomi Polette-Ortiz of Tohopekaliga (8th-23 : 17.07).

Trailing Celebration and Harmony in the team race was St. Cloud (80) in third, Tohopekaliga (4th-107), Osceola (5th-109) and Gateway (6th-127).

Next up for county runners is the FHSAA district meet on Saturday, October 22. Osceola will host the Class 4A, District 5 meet which will include Tohopekaliga, Celebration, Harmony, Poinciana and St. Cloud.

Runners Gateway and Liberty will compete in the Class 3A, District 3 meet at Winter Springs High School.

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