Another season of high school cross country has come to an end in Florida. Surveying the landscape of the aftermath the fall left me a little disappointed when it came to the results for Southwest Florida harriers. Just a little. The problem is the best cross country runners in the area are both middle distance aces, trying to up their game to 5,000 meters but more on that later.
The surprise of the season came from tiny Southwest Florida Christian Academy which qualified both its boys and girls team for state. That's a big upgrade for SFCA. I would include annual powerhouse Fort Myers in the same category. Coach Yancey Palmer had his hands full handling both the boys and girls squads. The Green Wave girls survived this season thanks in large part to the surprising junior, Stephanie Ormsby. A top 20 finish landed her squad in fifth at State, just a spot behind Naples, which had the returning talent to make a run for the podium, but it was not to be.
The Fort Myers boys seemed full of question marks. It took a steely sophomore Liam Holston hold the squad together. The tenth place finish at State, just one spot ahead of the always tough Estero Wildcats spoke volumes about the coaching job done by Palmer and even more so for Estero's head honcho Brian Olitsky. If you had told me that those two teams would race past Gulf Coast at the end of the year I wouldn't have believed you. Olitsky peaked his squad almost perfectly.
Another trio of Lee County squads made it to State in their respective classes. The girls of Bishop Verot, Cape Coral and Cantebury made the trip to Tallahassee. Cape Coral's Cheyenne Young seemed positioned at the beginning of the year to make the most noise at State. Ongoing health issues kept her outside the expected top ten finish in 15th.
The only top ten finish on the girl's side came from Cantebury super sophomore Jessica Edwards. Injuries slowed her at the end of the season but she capped off with a nice run at State. She slipped from her 2017 eighth place finish to 9th but ran 14 seconds faster on the same course. Edwards is positioned for a great outdoor season of track if she can stay healthy.
Still this season left me wanting more. It's not a slight against of the squads or the coaches. They are doing their best. But the intensity that used to reside here seems to have faded. I don't know if it's due to the untimely death of the great Jeff Sommer, who molded Estero into a powerhouse, or if we are just in a down cycle. But Southwest Florida its share of Footlocker finalists in the past. I'm sure more are on the way because the coaching is there to see to that.