By the time Arye Beck finished the Estero DDD Invitational on Saturday at Estero Community Park, the senior looked as if he had bathed in a pit of mud.
His shoes were water logged, his arms and legs were caked with dirt and sand and his hair was pressed against his face.
But to be fair, Beck conceded, this is what the late Jeff Sommer had in mind when he first built the course — make it so difficult people would complain about it.
That’s what Beck, a four-year member of Estero’s cross country program, kept thinking when he finished. It was all a mental game anyway since the course was harboring the side effects of Hurricane Hermine.
“Every time we run it, it’s entirely different from the last time, so I can’t really hold (personal records) hard to each other,” said Beck, who was fourth overall in 18 minutes, 3 seconds and anchored Estero’s third-place team finish.
He helped the Wildcats score 104 points to beat rival Naples, which defeated Estero last week at the Caloosahatchee Invitational. The finish for Estero was also an improvement from the program’s fifth place finish a season ago.
Estero sophomore Hugh Brittenham crossed the line in eighth, while junior Dean Gamblin was 15th.
Miami Belen Jesuit took top honors as a team, scoring the meet’s first two runners and all five of its lineup inside the top 20. Miami Pinecrest was second with 95 points, Naples was fourth and Gulf Coast was fifth.
The Sharks were led by Nick Kamen, who was fifth in 18:05.
“You had to know what you were going to do out there before you got on the course,” said Kamen, who won the Jim Ryun Invite in Lakeland last week in 16:37.
LaBelle senior Yoan Prado was third overall on a technicality. He finished second, but following the meet a challenge by coaches determined he had skipped a portion of the course by accident. The coaches dropped him to third rather than disqualify him.
“That was more than fair,” LaBelle coach Jef Frost said. “Anywhere else it would have been a DQ.”
Fort Myers, which sat out its top four runners, was seventh overall.
“I am happy with the improvement from last week,” Wildcats coach Ben Pignatone said. “Everyone is still trying to figure out how to race, and I think today showed an improvement in that.”
In the girls race, it was the kind of performance that needed no explanation. Pinecrest dominated from the opening gun until the finish, with Tsion Yared cruising to the finish line in 20:26.
Her four teammates weren’t far behind, slotting in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth positions, which yielded a remarkable 23 points considering the field was 37 teams strong — the lowest a team can score is 15 points.
North Fort Myers senior Kayla Easterly chased after Yared from start to finish and placed second overall in 20:55, a significant improvement from her 16th place finish in 2015 with a time of 22:35.
“There were a lot of obstacles,” Easterly remarked about the water, mud, sand and numerous hills. “Today was more about finishing then it was about placing. So I think my biggest goal this course was to finish. There were some doubts.”
Charlotte senior Isabella Coogan was fourth in 20:58, while Fort Myers junior Fiona Kurland was seventh in 21:39 and Green Wave freshman Sarah Schultz was ninth in 21:43.
“It’s mentally tough because it’s two laps,” Kurland said. “Once you see the first lap, you’re like ‘Oh God, I have to do this again?’ But then you have the hill, the water was a flood today and then the sand, too.”
The Green Wave, who were without top runner Krissy Gear and a handful of others — head coach Rob Strong said he was picking through different lineups — still finished second overall with 84 points. Charlotte was third, Lakewood Ranch was fourth and Naples was fifth.
“It’s a really, really good problem to have,” Strong said. “After today, I have a great idea of what’s there.”
Estero dipped to sixth place overall, but saw senior Megan Giovanniello finish 11th in 21:55 while teammate Alayna Goll was 14th in 22:18.
Estero DDD Invitational
1. Pine Crest 23; 2. Fort Myers 84; 3. Charlotte 137; 4. Lakewood Ranch 148; 5. Naples 152; 6. Estero 162; 7. Cape Coral 207; 8. Canterbury 225; 9. Gulf Coast 259; 10. Venice 315; 11. North Fort Myers 328; 12. Cypress Lake 333; 13. Barron Collier 351; 14. Riverdale 361; 15. Immokalee 391.
1. Tsion Yared (PC) 20:26; 2. Kayla Easterly (NFM) 20:55; 3. Simone Vreeland (PC) 20:57; 4. Isabella Coogan (Cha); 5. Mahdere Yared (PC); 6. Maya Beleznay (PC); 7. Fiona Kurland (FM); 8. Amanda Schwartz (PC); 9. Sarah Schultz (FM); 10. Jillian Dempsey (Nap); 11. Megan Giovanniello (Est); 12. Emily Faulhaber (PC); 13. Kelsey Mahoney (Nap); 14. Alayna Goll (Es); 15. Amber Winton (FM); 16. Sarina Francis (GC); 17. Andrea McDonald (Lak) 18. Cheyenne Young (CC); 19. Samantha Meade (PC); 20. Abigail Kohlmeier (CC).
1. Belen Jesuit 39; 2. Pine Crest 95; 3. Estero 104; 4. Naples 125; 5. Gulf Coast 134; 6. Lakewood Ranch 155; 7. Fort Myers 196; 8. Barron Collier 380; 9. Venice 385; 10. Dunbar 389; 11. Immokalee 397; 12. Riverdale 405; 13. Cape Coral 407; 14. Ida Baker 414; 15. Tampa Jesuit 454.
1. Josh Collins (BJ) 17:05; 2. Sebastian Roa (BJ) 17:54; 3. Yoan Prado (LaB) 17:55; 4. Arye Beck (Est); 5. Nick Kamen (GC); 6. Michael Kennedy (PC); 7. Lucas De La Hoz (BJ); 8. Hugh Brittenham (Est); 9. Jordan Russo (BC); 10. John Robbins (TJ); 11. Michael Cabral (PC); 12. Juan San Martin (BJ); 13. Mackenson Yrelus (Immok); 14. Dylan Clark (Nap); 15. Dean Gamblin (Est); 16. Christopher Davis (Nap); 17. John Rivera (Lak); 18. Kyle Skinner (FM); 19. Brice Easton (Lak); 20. Christopher Garcia (BJ).