The results over the years have been as close as you would expect between the top two cross country programs in Lee County.
Fans have come to expect either the white and green of Fort Myers, or the blue and white of Estero dominating county races.
And Tuesday was no different at the Lee County Athletic Conference cross country championships at Estero Community Park.
It was between Estero and Fort Myers.
This year tilted in Fort Myers’ favor in both the boys’ and girls’ races again, with the girls winning 24-42 over Estero, while the boys tallied 24 points to the Wildcats’ 32. Cape Coral placed third overall in the girls’ meet with 96 points, while Riverdale earned third in the boys’ race with 75 points.
“As it strung out, we hoped we were in the right position,” Fort Myers girls coach Rob Strong said. “And we were. We had everyone within where they needed to be. All week, it was: let’s pack up. And we did.”
Fort Myers junior Krissy Gear, earning her first LCAC title, cruised into the finish line in a top time of 19:54, while Green Wave junior Josh Kennedy bested the boys’ race in 17:05, also earning his first win.
It marked the second straight year the girls won the LCAC title following three straight second-place outings against Estero. The boys earned their second straight championship and third in the past five seasons.
“In the second half, we just tried to race against each other and pull each other to the finish,” Kennedy said.
Estero senior Daley Cline, a recent University of Alabama commit, was second in 20:13, while Green Wave freshman Kailyn Kaminski was third in 20:23.
Kennedy’s teammate, Evan Babatz, followed closely behind in 17:22, while Estero junior Arye Beck was third in 17:29. The top seven runners in each race earned all-county status.
“Sometimes you have a tendency to work early or work late, but in this case they worked together in all aspects of the race,” Fort Myers boys head coach Yancey Palmer said.
The division between Estero and Fort Myers was even more prominent in the boys’ race because the top nine runners were from either one school or the other.
It made for an interesting dynamic as Babatz set the tone early before Kennedy turned on the endurance late. Beck highlighted a strong Wildcats team that’s also been given a boost by freshman Hugh Brittenham, who finished fifth overall in 17:47.
In the girls’ race, the top four runners, including Gear, Cline, Estero’s Megan Giovanniello and North Fort Myers’ Kayla Easterly were in a position battle in the first mile and a half. Gear finally made her move on the second lap and began an ascent that ended with a 19 second gap.
Kaminski came on strong late, too, surging to the third position, which gave the Green Wave additional breathing room.
“Sometimes it takes that fearlessness,” Strong said of Kaminski. “And Krissy is fully in belief of her. So when they were near each other, she was telling her to get up there with her.”
Lee County Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships
At Estero Community Park, 3.1 miles
Boys team scores: 1. Fort Myers 24; 2. Estero 32; 3. Riverdale 75; 4. Mariner 140; 5. Ida Baker 144; 6. Island Coast 171; 7. Dunbar 178; 8. Cape Coral 226; 9. Cypress Lake 276; 10. East Lee County 286; 11. North Fort Myers 305; 12. Lehigh 334; South Fort Myers, DNS
Boys top individuals: 1. Josh Kennedy, FM, 17:05; 2. Evan Babatz, FM, 17:22; 3. Arye Beck, Estero, 17:29; 4. Sam Hordinski, FM, 17:37; 5. Hugh Brittenham, Estero, 17:47; 6. Nick Carpenter, FM, 17:47; 7. Dean Gamblin, Estero, 18:00; 8. Jacob Dorn, Estero, 18:02; 9. Matt Ellard, Estero, 18:03; 10. Darickson Gonzalez, Mariner, 18:05.
Girls team scores: 1. Fort Myers 24; 2. Estero 42; 3. Cape Coral 96; 4. Cypress Lake 128; 5. Riverdale 130; 6. Island Coast 133; 7. Ida Baker 169; 8. East Lee County 233; Lehigh, DNS; Mariner, DNS; North Fort Myers, DNS; South Fort Myers, DNS.
Girls top individuals: 1. Kristlin Gear, FM, 19:54; 2. Daley Cline, Estero, 20:13; 3. Kailyn Kaminski, FM, 20:23; 4. Megan Giovanniello, Estero, 20:33; 5. Kayla Easterly, NFM, 21:09; 6. Taylor Morrello, FM, 21:17; 7. Alayna Goll, Estero, 21:27; 8. Avery Scrabis, FM, 21:27; 9. Caroline MacKenzie, FM, 21:27; 10. Amber Winton, FM, 22:14.