A pair of Fort Myers High School cross country runners continued their season-long surges Wednesday evening at Mariner High School in capturing Lee County Athletic Conference crowns.
Emily Edwards, a junior, placed first in the girls race with a time of 18 minutes, 34.02 seconds. She did so a year after finishing 11th in the county meet.
Tyler Bennett, also a junior, won the boys race in leading the Green Wave to the boys team title. He finished with a time of 16:00.76 a year after finishing seventh in the county meet.
For Edwards, adjusting to a new school — she transferred after her freshman year at Canterbury — adjusting to a four-inch growth spurt and adding more protein and iron to her diet have boosted her not just into the area’s elite list of runners but in the state as well.
“The heavy winds kind of changed things a little bit,” Edwards said of the race conditions. “The wind made things a lot more difficult. I tried to focus on the golf cart in front of me.”
Edwards finished well ahead of the pack. Estero senior Kacy Smith placed second with a time of 19:33.21, almost a full minute behind Edwards. Smith led the Wildcats to the girls team title. Estero senior Katy Solis placed third in 20:07.99.
Winded and cramped after crossing the finish line, Edwards sat for about 20 seconds on that pace golf cart after it stopped. As soon as she saw sophomore teammate Jillian Richter enter Tony McKenna Field’s track, Edwards stood, turned toward Richter and screamed words of encouragement at her.
Richter placed sixth with a time of 20:45.37, helping the Green Wave to a second-place team finish with 48 points behind Estero’s 26 points.
“It was nice of her to cheer for me,” Richter said.
On the boys side, senior Ace Brown has been cheering Bennett in admittedly awkward fashion.
Brown bested Bennett in most of their races last season. Now Bennett has turned the tables, with Brown placing third in 16:26.22, almost half a minute behind Bennett.
Senior Robert Ormsby of Cypress Lake placed third in the boys race with a time of 16:06.94.
“He’s doing great,” Brown said of Bennett. “He’s doing excellent. It’s still surprising me. It’s excellent though. I have mixed feelings all over the place. I’m proud of him for going out strong. He’s got it.”
Ormsby ran with Bennett for much of the race until he pulled away as they approached the stadium, in which the final quarter mile of the 3.2-mile race was run.
“It just came down to me and Tyler,” Ormsby said.
“He got me at the end. He’s just such a good runner. He’s so strong.”