Region cross country is here Friday and Saturday, and it remains the only race separating runners from a state qualification at the Florida State University course in Tallahassee on Nov. 7.
First, however, runners will need qualify at their region races. In Lee and Hendry counties, teams will compete throughout Central and Southwest Florida. In Lakeland, a Super Regional will hold the Class 3A-3 and Class A-3 races at Holloway Park, while in Class 2A-3 LaBelle will travel to Lemon Bay.
Below are six contenders in each race from Lee and Hendry counties.
Krissy Gear, junior, Fort Myers: The prohibitive favorite to win the Region 3A-3 championship, Gear is following a District 3A-11 championship win in 19:22. She’s secured three sub-19 times all season, including a personal best 18:35 at the Flrunners.com Invite on Sept. 25, and should continue to improve as the postseason continues. She finished second at regions a year ago.
Daley Cline, senior, Estero: Cline has yet to run a sub-19 race this year, but the Region 3A-3 race could be a good place to start. The University of Alabama commit won her first District 3A-12 championship a week ago and could be in line for a personal best on Friday. She finished fourth at regions in 2014.
Megan Giovanniello, junior, Estero: Giovanniello, who missed all of last cross country season after transferring from Ida Baker following her superb freshman campaign, has been consistent as a junior, capturing three sub-20 times and a PR of 19:46 at the Flrunners.com Invite. She finished in 19:47 last week at the District 3A-12 meet, finishing second behind Cline.
Kayla Easterly, junior, North Fort Myers: Having a breakout season, Easterly’s 19:19 at the FSU Invitational on Oct. 2 spelled great things moving forward. She won the Mariner Triton Invitational on Sept. 26, was fifth at the LCAC Championships and placed second at the District 3A-11 meet in 19:38. Easterly was ninth at regions in 2014.
Sierra Oliveira, Eighth grade, Evangelical Christian School: Surprisingly experienced without even being in high school, Oliveira has three top-10 finishes on her resume in 2015, including a runner-up performance at the District A-8 meet on Oct. 23. She was third at the Mariner Triton Invite and ninth at Caloosahatchee. A year ago, she scored a career-best 20:00 at the state finals in Tallahassee and was 24th in regions as a seventh-grader.
Kailyn Kaminski, freshman, Fort Myers: The super freshman has steadily moved up on varsity since the Estero DDD Invitational on Sept. 5, where she placed first in the JV race. She’s a solid No. 2 on a state-contending Green Wave team and heads into regions off a fourth-place performance in District 3A-11. She has two sub-20 times this year, including a personal best of 19:54.
Fort Myers: The Green Wave were the Region 3A-3 runner-up by means of displacement a year ago, but likely enter as one of the meet’s favorites. Fort Myers will need to contend with a host of Tampa schools, but it has a solid top five led by Gear. The Green Wave secured wins at District 3A-11, LCAC and Optimist. They finished second at the Flrunners.com Invite, were fourth at the University of Florida Mountain Dew race and 13th at the heavily crowded Florida State University Invitational.
Estero: Led by Cline and Giovanniello, the Wildcats won the District 3A-12 meet last week and will compete for a top six finish and state qualification.
Josh Kennedy, junior, Fort Myers: Kennedy enters Region 3A-3 having earned wins at the Caloosahatchee Invitational and LCAC. He captured his season best of 16:12 at the FSU Invitational on Oct. 2 and likely will contend for a top 10 finish at regions. He was ninth in 2014.
Evan Babatz, junior, Fort Myers: The junior hasn’t won a meet yet, but should be among the leaders at regions. He has two second-place performances at District 3A-11 and LCAC and two third-place finishes at Caloosahatchee and Optimist. He ran a PR of 16:30 at the FSU Invite and finished 23rd at regions last year.
Arye Beck, junior, Estero: Running his best late in the season, Beck captured his first win at the District 3A-12 meet last week in a personal best 16:37. He has top-10 finishes at North Port, Optimist and the Estero DDD Invitational. He was 25th at regions last year.
Evan Williams, senior, SFCA: The senior finished 29th at the Region A-3 meet a season ago, failing to qualify for states. But that should change this time around. He won the District A-8 race last week and scored a PR of 17:27 at Lely on Oct. 17. He won the Venice Invite on Oct. 3, was second at Mariner’s Triton on Sept. 26 and was 20th at Optimist.
Enrique Jimenez, senior, LaBelle: Jimenez is right where he needs to be. He won the District 2A-12 meet last week in 16:38, a season best. He has two top-10 finishes at the Celtic Invite and North Port, and has a career-best time of 16:31, which he accomplished last year at states. He was third in regions in 2014.
Omar Figueroa, senior, LaBelle: The senior was second at District 2A-12 last week and has three other top 10 finishes on his resume in 2015. He was fourth at the Disney Classic, fifth at Optimist and ninth at Caloosahatchee. He has three sub-17 races on his record as a senior. He finished fourth at regions a year ago.
LaBelle: The Cowboys have been consistent throughout the 2015 season, often running in packs that yield spreads – the times factored between the first and fifth runners – less than a minute wide. It’s led to wins at District 2A-12, North Port and Optimist, and second-place performances at Estero and Caloosahatchee. They were fourth at a highly competitive Flrunners.com Invite. The Cowboys are the defending region champs.
Fort Myers boys: The Green Wave should have no problem scoring in the top six to qualify for states. They enter having won District 3A-11, LCAC and Caloosahatchee, and were second at North Port and Optimist. They scored a 10th-place performance at the Flrunners.com Invite. Fort Myers enters having won regions a season ago.