Talent doesn’t always equal wins in cross country, as Estero senior Arye Beck and North Fort Myers senior Kayla Easterly know well.
Entering the Lee County Athletic Conference championships at Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres, the duo had a combined two victories in varsity races over four seasons.
That numbered doubled on Tuesday.
Beck hadn’t won at the Veterans Park course in seven attempts prior, but his finishing time of 16:43 was his third straight trip under 17 minutes in the last two weeks.
“Bout time,” he said.
Easterly, meanwhile, powered through the finish in 19:14, which was just six seconds off her personal record. She defeated defending champ Krissy Gear of Fort Myers, who was third.
“I didn’t expect to win this at all,” said Easterly, who is also overcoming an anemia diagnosis. “But seeing that I had a pretty big lead, and I had a couple seconds ahead of everyone. I just tried to find everything inside me to kick more and try to win.”
While Beck’s finish set the tone in the boys race and was one of three Estero finishes inside the top four, Fort Myers pulled away with three straight places in 6-7-8 and outscored the Wildcats by three points in the team competition.
“We were trying to match man-against-man against Estero,” Fort Myers coach Yancey Palmer said. “We felt if we could win three out of those first five points then theoretically we win. They beat us to the first three, but we were able to beat them to 4-5 and beyond. Our depth is definitely what saves us.”
The Green Wave’s Josh Kennedy was second in 16:53, while Estero landed Evan Williams and Hugh Brittenham in third and fourth overall. Fort Myers followed with Sam Hordinski, Evan Babatz and Nick Carpenter. The top seven places earned All-county honors.
In the girls race, the Green Wave continued to race strong just three days after a big race in North Carolina and were led by second-place finisher Fiona Kurland, who had a time of 19:22. The Green Wave cruised in the girls race with 29 points.
Kurland whisked off any fatigue and went with Easterly after the mile and a half mark, almost catching her in the final moments before Easterly had one final kick of her own.
“I feel like every week I just keep racing better than the week before,” Kurland said.
Gear was third in 19:37 following her performance at the Great American Race Festival, where she ran a season-best 18:28.
Riverdale junior Chelsey Oliver, who’s broken out in a big way over the last two weeks, was fourth in 20:06. The Green Wave’s Kailyn Kaminski was fifth, Estero’s Megan Giovanniello was sixth and Cape Coral’s Abby Kohlmeier was seventh.
“I’ve just tried to get better and better,” Oliver said. “This race, I wasn’t looking for time. I was more looking for placement.”
The morning, however, belonged to Easterly, who surged confidently in the final 1,500 meters. Easterly said the win gave her a fresh breath of air following a few shaky weeks following the diagnosis.
“It’s definitely a good feeling knowing that I had some drawbacks,” she said. “I was still able to win and get a good time. I’m optimistic now for upcoming races.”
Beck, meanwhile, finally won a race inside county lines after going for it on a number of previous attempts. His only previous win as at the District 3A-12 race last year at Palmetto Ridge.
“I’ve been working hard, so I was really going for this,” he said.
1. Fort Myers 31; 2. Estero 34; 3. Cape Coral 123; 4. Dunbar 138; 5. Riverdale 149; 6. Ida Baker 158; 7. Mariner 179; 8. Island Coast 187; 9. Cypress Lake 248; 10. North Fort Myers 289; 11. Lehigh 342; 12. East Lee County 343; 13. South Fort Myers 381.
1. Arye Beck (Est) 16:41; 2. Josh Kennedy (FM) 16:53; 3. Evan Williams (Est) 17:01; 4. Hugh Brittenham (Est) 17:04; 5. Sam Hordinski (FM) 17:17; 6. Evan Babatz (FM) 17:21; 7. Nick Carpenter (FM) 17:23; 8. Darickson Gonzalez (Mar) 17:29; 9. Bryan Markovich (CC) 17:33; 10. Brice Kelly (CC) 17:42; 11. Evan Seech (FM) 17:44; 12. Matt Ellard (Est) 17:44; 13. Matthew Celebrado (FM) 17:52; 14. Dean Gamblin (Est) 17:53; 15. Collin Pace (IB) 17:54.
1. Fort Myers 29; 2. Estero 73; 3. Cape Coral 75; 4. Riverdale 118; 5. Cypress Lake 155; 6. North Fort Myers 157; 7. Island Coast 190; 8. Mariner 213; 9 .Dunbar 234; 10. East Lee County 272.
1. Kayla Easterly (NFM) 19:14; 2. Fiona Kurland (FM) 19:22; 3. Kristlin Gear (FM) 19:37; 4. Chelsey Oliver (Riv) 20:06; 5. Kailyn Kaminski (FM) 20:10; 6. Megan Giovanniello (Est) 20:36; 7. Abby Kohlmeier (CC) 20:48; 8. Alayna Goll (Est) 20:49; 9. Jenna Fedec (FM) 21:00; 10. Sidney Oakes-Lottridge (FM) 21:23; 11. Cheyenne Young (CC) 21:51; 12. Kelsey Miskimins (CC) 21:55; 13. Caroline MacKenzie (FM) 21:55; 14. Corey Pethers (IC) 21:58; 15. Shelby Guttery (FM) 22:01.