Breakthroughs come in various forms in cross country, but success isn’t always measured in record times.
Fort Myers seniors Krissy Gear and Evan Babatz credited positive-thinking and perseverance as launching points in Friday’s District 3A-11 championships at Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres.
Gear claimed her third straight district title in 18:43.06, helping the Green Wave girls secure a near flawless win, their third straight district title.
Babatz, meanwhile, flew to the finish line for his first career varsity win in a time of 16:57, leading the boys to their third straight district championship.
“I’ve won a ton of track events, but first win in the 5K feels good,” Babatz said.
The Fort Myers girls had their top five runners in the top seven places and 10 in the top 18. The Green Wave boys had their five scorers in the top 10 and eight in the first 16.
If nothing else, girls coach Rob Strong and boys coach Yancey Palmer will have some difficult decisions moving forward in deciding their postseason lineups.
“That was as happy as I’ve been for them as a team all year,” said Strong, whose team had to endure a 40-minute delay to start the race after a bus carrying the North Fort Myers team blew a tire. “There are girls fighting for spots who know we’re not going to win a region, we’re not going to win a state title, unless we race the way we should race.”
Outside of the Green Wave girls, Charlotte, Cape Coral and Riverdale secured automatic qualification to the Region 3A-3 championship at Estero Community Park on Oct. 28.
On the boys’ side, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte, Ida Baker and Charlotte punched their tickets to next week’s region meet.
“The boys came out and had a really effective race, all things considered,” said Palmer, whose team hadn’t raced since the LCAC championships 17 days prior.
Gear was followed closely all race by North Fort Myers senior Kayla Easterly, who was second in 18:49.50. The pair see-sawed for much of the first half, before Gear surged for a 10-meter cushion and closed hard.
“It was nice to go out hard in this course and beat my time from LCAC,” said Easterly, who beat Gear in that race on Oct. 4 with a time of 19:14.90 on the same course. “It’s still progress.”
Riverdale junior Chelsey Oliver came in third in 19:47.91.
Cypress Lake’s girls had three runners inside the top 16, including junior Sage Williamson, who finished ninth in a season-best 20:58.23, but the Panthers missed one of the top four automatic placements into the region meet. The top 15 runners qualified for the region.
“I’ve been dealing with shin splints most of the season,” Williamson said, “but I’m really happy with today.”
The Fort Myers girls buried the field up front. Junior Fiona Kurland was fourth (20:08.74), sophomore Kailyn Kaminski landed in fifth (20:31.37), senior Sidney Oakes-Lottridge was sixth (20:46.82) and senior Shelby Guttery closed out the team’s scoring in seventh (20:55.38).
“The girls stepped up when they needed to,” Strong said. “Shelby and Sidney were huge today, they pushed through, and everyone reacted to them and raced behind. They know what it takes to race at the state meet.”
In the boys race, Ida Baker sophomore Ryan Ringer was third overall in 17:20.17. Mariner senior Darickson Gonzalez was fourth in 17:31.50 and the Cape Coral duo of Bryan Markovich and Brice Kelly were eighth and ninth.
Babatz and second-place runner Josh Kennedy were followed by sophomore Nick Carpenter in fifth (17:37.41), senior Matt Celebrado in seventh (17:41.56) and senior Luis Padilla in 10th (17:53.16).
Babatz dealt with an early season injury that made him miss two meets. He has since regained the form that makes him one of the toughest runners in Southwest Florida.
“I think the last race, it was LCAC three weeks ago,” he said. “Since then I’ve strengthened a lot and got my confidence back. And also my physical ability, too.”
District 3A-11 Cross Country Championship
at Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres
Team standings (top 5 advance)
1. Fort Myers 25; 2. Cape Coral 116; 3. Port Charlotte 120; 4. Ida Baker 121; 5. Charlotte 123; 6. Mariner 123; 7. Riverdale 152; 8. Island Coast 161; 9. Cypress Lake 227; 10. North Fort Myers 260; 11. Lehigh 326.
Individual (top 15)
1. Evan Babatz (FM) 16:57.65; 2. Josh Kennedy (FM) 17:19.98; 3. Ryan Ringer (IB) 17:20.17; 4. Darickson Gonzalez (Mar) 17:31.50; 5. Nicholas Carpenter (FM) 17:37.41; 6. John Perez-Dunn (PC) 17:41.46; 7. Matthew Celebrado (FM) 17:41.56; 8. Bryan Markovich (CC) 17:43.44; 9. Brice Kelly (CC) 17:43.73; 10. Luis Padilla (FM) 17:53.16; 11. Kyle Shirley (Cha) 17:57.83; 12. Zach Roussel (Riv) 17:58.61; 13. Reese Novella (FM) 18:06.94; 14. Kyle Skinner (FM) 18:08.51; 15. Colin Pace (IB) 18:08.56
Team standings (top 4 advance)
1. Fort Myers 23; 2. Charlotte 88; 3. Cape Coral 105; 4. Riverdale 132; 5. Cypress Lake 136; 6. Island Coast 149; 7. North Fort Myers 158; 8. Mariner 190; 9. Port Charlotte 205
Individual (top 15)
1. Krissy Gear (FM) 18:43.06; 2. Kayla Easterly (NFM) 18:49.50; 3. Chelsey Oliver (Riv) 19:47.91; 4. Fiona Kurland (FM) 20:08.74; 5. Kailyn Kaminski (FM) 20:31.37; 6. Sidney Oakes-Lottridge (FM) 20:46.82; 7. Shelby Guttery (FM) 20:55.38; 8. Caroline McKenzie (FM) 20:58.23; 9. Sage Williamson (CL) 20:58.23; 10. Mia Doxtator (CL) 21:12.67; 11. Cheyenne Young (CC) 21:18.01; 12. Amber Winton (FM) 21:19.27; 13. Madison Wagoner (FM) 21:21.14; 14. Katie Kanagy (Cha) 21:24.94; 15. Jenna Fedec (FM) 21:32.55