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By Sharon Robb

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Miami Northwestern, one of the most dominant girls’ track and field programs in the state, won its’ first major cross country invitational meet in the program’s history.

The Lady Bulls, with only five runners including one from the defending state track champion team, won the inaugural Westminster Christian Warrior Invitational at Coral Reef Park in Palmetto Bay. The team topped a field of 184 runners and 18 teams.

The Lady Bulls finishers were: junior Ayoola Gbolade, seventh, 21:47; senior Zaria Jackson, ninth, 22:17; sophomore Nina Burgos, 10th, 22:17; junior Antravia Snow, 13th, 22:20 and freshman Lakeria Gathers, 14th, 22:38. Gathers is the niece of Miami-born Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

“We have won district meets before but never won a major cross country meet,” said Lady Bulls legendary coach Carmen Jackson. “Every year we have gotten better and better. We have always been in the top five or top ten but never won.”

The team’s average was 22:16 and total time was 1:51:21.

The shady, grassy course suited the Lady Bulls with the start and finish 200-meter straightaways and the remainder of the course two loops.

“It did suit the girls, it was a different kind of course,” Jackson said. “The weather was iffy, but other than that it was good. Our girls didn’t know the course, they didn’t know when to strike.”

Gbolade ran anchor leg on the Lady Bulls’ winning 4×800-yard relay that won in 9:17.86 at the State 3A meet in May when the Lady Bulls won their eighth consecutive state crown and 13th title overall.

Northwestern has had a cross country program since Jackson started coaching track at the school in 1990-91 but has yet to reach the same stature. Part of the problem has been convincing the girls to come out for cross country.

“Every year I have been a coach I patch a team together,” Jackson said. “As I became older I came up with different motivations. It gives the kids a good base for track. I push them and motivate them. I tell them we don’t run cross country, we run the cross, we don’t think about the country.

“They hate it. Anything that requires pain and suffering. With cross country the pain is there like a nagging toothache that never stops. With track the pain is there but then it stops.”

The Lady Bulls still have a track mentality when it comes to cross country.

“We don’t do roadwork,” Jackson said. “We do track intervals. They are real excited about winning this. It shows them they are able to do cross country.”

Palmetto was second with 65 points, averaging 22:18 with a total time 1:51:33.

Mater Academy eighth grader Jinah Mickens-Malik won the individual title in 19:41. She was one of two runners to crack 20 minutes. Southridge freshman Rahyah Andressohn was second in 19:59.

The course will serve as the home course for the District 16-1A championships.


Pine Crest girls and Belen Jesuit boys, South Florida’s most consistent teams in major meets this season, both finished runners-up in the Invite 17 Race of Champions, the state’s biggest meet, at Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville.

Pine Crest finished runner-up to two-time defending Class 4A state champion Winter Park, 49-69 among a field of 22 invited teams.

The Panthers were running without one of their top runners, Simone Vreeland, sidelined with an illness. She was fourth at last week’s Pine Crest Invitational.

Pine Crest freshman Tsion Yared was fourth in a personal-best 17:52. She was among an elite field that featured ten of the state’s top 15 runners going head-to-head for the first time this season.

Other Pine Crest finishers were: Maya Beleznay, 10th, best time 18:53; Emily Faulhaber, 23rd, best time 19:26; Mahdere Yared, 35th, 19:53; and Amanda Schwartz, 37th, 19:54. Overall, the team averaged 19:13.

Ferguson was third in the girls’ elite competition with 218 points. Its top five places were senior Jazmyn Martinez, 20th, 19:43; freshman Lisa Adjouadi, 30th, 19:59; senior Kaylee Alfaro, 45th, 20:44; freshman Bianca Banato, 55th, 21:01; and senior Gabriela Crespi, 68th, 21:26.

Gulliver Prep freshman Natalie Varela was the top South Florida finisher, placing second in 17:46, 14 seconds behind champion Bailey Hertenstein, a junior at Sarasota Riverview. Varela averaged 5:42 miles.

Belen Jesuit finished runner-up to three-time defending state 2A boys champion Trinity Prep. The Class 3A Wolverines finished with 97 points, 60 more than Trinity Prep. Junior Joshua Collins was Belen’s top finisher placing third in 15:41.

The Wolverines other finishers were sophomore Lucas de la Hoz, 14th, 16:39; sophomore Sebastian Roa, 26th, 17:02; junior Christopher Garcia, 27th, 17:04 and sophomore Henrique Souza, 28th, 17:04.

Ferguson was tenth with finishers junior Guillermo Rojas, 11th, 16:34; senior Javier Arriaga, 34th, 17:41; sophomore Yader Porocarrero, 62nd, 17:40; junior Sebastian Lazo, 77th, 17:58 and junior Nicholas Pujals, 80th, 18:01.

Pine Crest boys team, despite running without three of its top five runners, finished 13th overall.

The Panthers top runner, Michael Kennedy, was 19th out of 161 runners in 16:38. Other Pine Crest finishers were: Michael Cabral, 16:47; Adrian Abedon, 18:04; Matt Jordan, 18:56 and Gaby Ortega, 18:59.

In the girls small school unseeded race, North Broward Prep juniors Katie Pinnell (20:14) and Katie Bishop (21:37) finished one-two and led their team to a runner-up finish to Lakeland Christian, 40-42.

Calvary Christian won the boys small school team title with 96 points, just one point ahead of Providence School. Calvary Christian junior Danny Ferro won the individual title in 16:32.

home button long1 Roundup: Northwestern Girls Win First Major Cross Country Meet


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