By the time Krissy Gear emerged from the winding trails of Holloway Park with less than a tenth of a mile left in the Region 3A-3 girls’ cross country championships in Lakeland on Friday, the Fort Myers junior could nearly see the finish line.
And it sure was a familiar sight.
Gear won her third straight race and also took home her first region championship in a time of 18:46, pushing the Green Wave to a team championship.
Fort Myers had all five of its runners finish in the top 25 as it scored 65 points and edged second-place Osceola High of Pinellas County by 24 points. Estero, meanwhile, scored three runners in the top 20, finishing third overall with 128 points.
Wildcats senior Daley Cline was seventh overall in 20:02, while junior teammate Megan Giovanniello was eighth in 20:05. North Fort Myers junior Kayla Easterly was second overall, finishing in 19:21.
“I knew coming in Maggie (Parrish) and (North Fort Myers’) Kayla were going to push it,” Gear said. “They have big potential and are talented runners. I tried to keep it more under control for the first mile-and-a-half and they all ran really strong.”
Gear’s move between the second and third mile could not be matched.
“I decided to take charge of the race,” Gear said. “There were some parts where I wanted to settle but I noticed if I start settling, I end up disappointed so I just tried to gut it out and push myself.”
The Green Wave also saw freshman Kailyn Kaminski cross the finish in 11th place with a time of 20:14, while senior Taylor Morrello was 17th in 20:45.4.
“The girls as a whole ran really well,” Fort Myers coach Rob Strong said. “We got out hard on a tough course. We stressed that this week because if we want to compete next weekend we’ve got to get out hard. We got a great effort top to bottom. That’s what it will take next week as well.”
In the boys’ race, Charlotte’s Marshall Dillon took down the course in a top time of 16:38, but the Fort Myers boys once again grouped together for unbeatable combination of depth.
Green Wave junior Evan Babatz was second overall in 16:55, while junior teammate Josh Kennedy followed in fourth in 17:05, marking the beginning of what would be a tremendous showing by the team.
Fort Myers scored all five of its runners in the top 20 to finish first, scoring a region best 49 points to Gulf Coasts’ 91. Following in third was Estero’s boys, who placed junior Arye Beck in sixth overall with a time of 17:11.
“They all just ran really solid and that’s what we need,” Green Wave head coach Yancey Palmer said. “We don’t need them all to run amazingly.”
Palmer was complementary of senior Stephen Fedec, who was in his first race back after missing two weeks. The harrier took 13th in 17:23.72.
“It was great to see him pick up where he left off,” Palmer said. “He helped us get into the state series.”
In the Region A-2 meet, the Evangelical Christian School girls took third overall with 124 points to secure a bid in next week’s state course at Florida State University.
Running her best time of the season, Sentinels eighth-grader Moriah Oliveira was sixth overall in 20:16, while her twin, Sierra, was 10th in 20:46.
“The girls ran a heck of a race today,” ECS head coach Wes Penberthy said. “It wasn’t a particularly fast course, but there were a lot of PR’s and the season bests are still up for us.
“Now that we made it, the goal for us is to make a run at a top seven finish for the third year in a row.”
Surprising, however, was Canterbury, which slipped into the sixth and final qualification spot with 175 points. The Cougars were paced by eighth-grader Isabelle Swan, who finished in 15th place in a time of 20:57.
In the boys’ race, Southwest Florida Christian Academy senior Evan Williams was seventh overall in 17:43, shaking off a bad junior finish to qualify for states.