In a top 5 full of runners from Gulf Coast High School, Fort Myers junior Emily Edwards managed to dominate them all.
Edwards was the only entrant to run under than six minutes per mile in winning first place in the District 3A-12 girls cross country race Wednesday as the Green Wave finished second to team champion Gulf Coast at North Collier Regional Park in Naples.
Edwards finished well ahead of the pack with a time of 18 minutes, 20 seconds in the 5-kilometer race, crossing the line over a minute ahead of Gulf Coast junior Caroline Barlow (19:28). Danielle DeGreff of Gulf Coast finished third (20:01) and Samantha Davis of Gulf Coast (20:12) was fourth.
Edwards’ finish was by her estimation her third-best time of the season.
“I just tried to run at my own pace,” Edwards said. “I’m happy overall with how I did. It was just a matter of being focused the whole way out there. About the hardest thing about the course was the change of terrain when running around the softball field. The course was definitely redundant with three big laps around the soccer field.”
In support of Edwards, Fort Myers sophomore Jillian Richter finished seventh with a time of 20:47.
“I’m excited about how the whole team has been doing,” Edwards said. “Everyone has had personal bests this year, which is awesome. Individually, everyone is doing their best.”
The top four teams and top 13 individuals advance to the region meet next week in Estero.
Gulf Coast won the meet with a score of 43. Fort Myers was second with 56 and Naples came in third at 66.
Ida Baker finished fourth and will also compete in the region as a team in Estero with the Sharks, Green Wave and the Golden Eagles. Baker had five runners in the top 20, led by Jessica Polendo (10th, 21:16), Alexandria Vanhoose (12th, 21:25) and Rebecca Cicoria (13th, 21:25).
East Lee County senior Vivianna Mandoza also qualified for the region meet with an eighth-place finish at 20:57.
The Fort Myers boys team did the girls team one better, taking first thanks to the performances junior Tyler Bennett and senior Aesop Brown.
Bennett won with a time of 15:44 and Brown was narrowly behind at 15:48 in second.
“I feel good after how I ran,” Bennett said. “The course was kind of tough. There was a lot of thick grass and it was kind of warm, but other than that my race felt pretty good.”
The Green Wave also had solid runs by sophomore Dean McGregor (fifth, 16:10), senior Brendan McGonagle (ninth, 16:49) and senior Tyler Long (13th, 17:33). Fort Myers had seven runners in the top 18 spots.
Fort Myers won with 30 points. Naples was second with 44. Palmetto Ridge was third at 73 and Ida Baker came in fourth with 101 points.
“Our team wants to be the best. We want to win state and beat Belen Jesuit,” Bennett said. “We were very focused today, and we just have to keep on doing what we have been every week. We will keep working hard and be prepared for the region next week.”
Anthony Milana led Ida Baker with a 10th place finish at 17:11. Bulldog teammates Brandon Walker was 16th and Alexander Hamel 20th.