Considering the week of training that led to this race, LaBelle cross country coach Jef Frost was a little surprised at how well his top runner, Yoan Prado, fared on Saturday at the Hoptar Invitational at Veterans Park in Lehigh.
The Cowboys ran 10 miles on Monday, followed with a brutal hill workout and mile repeats on Tuesday, continued with tempo on Wednesday and added more hills for good measure on Thursday.
A couple days later, it resulted in a win for Prado, who finished the course in 16 minutes and 59 seconds. It was his second victory in three weeks and his third straight top three performance in Southwest Florida.
“I think it all goes back to what he does this summer,” Frost said. “Six miles a day. He got good mileage over the summer and it’s paying off.”
In the girls race, Fort Myers cruised to a team title by scoring its first five runners inside the top 19, while senior Krissy Gear, competing in her first race of 2016, grabbed the win in 19:38.
“Toward the end, I could have run a little faster,” said Gear, who finished last season as the Class 3A runner-up in Tallahassee. “But I wanted to set my energy for what I needed to do. I didn’t want to over train too early.”
Charlotte sophomore Isabella Coogan was second in 19:50 and North Fort Myers senior Kayla Easterly, who took out the race in the first half, was third in 20:03.
“I was worried that I was going to die, which I did,” said Easterly, who, to be fair, is farther along in 2016 compared to where she was as a junior. “I wanted to maintain as much as I could.”
Competing mostly at full strength Saturday, the Green Wave girls are beginning to look like the team that could challenge for conference, district and region titles in the weeks to come — and maybe even a state title.
“This was our first one where we were mostly all together,” Fort Myers coach Rob Strong said. “We had a couple kids taking tests today. But in a couple weeks at North Port, I’ll know what my seven will be.”
In the boys race, a larger competition was unfolding, with Fort Myers and Naples vying for a team championship.
But it was the Green Wave, racing without senior front-runner Evan Babatz, who ultimately nipped the Golden Eagles by seven points, using two back-to-back finishes in fourth and fifth by seniors Sam Hordinski and Josh Kennedy, and placing its scoring five all inside the top 22.
Hordinski crossed the finish in 17:33, while Kennedy followed in 17:34.
“Me and a few other guys have had some tough luck lately,” said Hordinski, whose team scored 64 points compared to Naples’ 71. “We’re getting back in there. We just wanted to get in here and run our all. I think we did that.”
And then there’s Prado, a Cuban native who transferred into LaBelle as a sophomore, who’s been the story of Southwest Florida running thus far. With nearly all of its team graduated from a season ago, the Cowboys have remained respectable on courses with Prado and senior teammate Brendon Hererra.
The senior finished 46th at the Class 2A meet in 2015, but improved considerably in each of the first three meets he’s run in 2016.
“It’s good. It feels good,” said Prado, who logged a 31 second personal record on the course Saturday. “I’m going to keep going. I’m trying to get top three or five in every race.”
Prado narrowly edged Lely’s Josh Wagner in the finals seconds at Veterans Park, needing to look over his shoulder to withstand a sprinting finish by the Trojans runner, who finished in a nearly identical 16:59.
Estero senior Arye Beck, who led for much of the race, was third in 17:06.
“Going into the last section, I knew there was one kid behind me but I didn’t know there were two,” said Beck, who has been top five in his first three races of 2016, too. “And I knew these kids were taller. I had to be selective. I didn’t expect them have that a great uphill. That’s where they got me. I just misjudged it and they got me in the end.”
Estero sophomore Hugh Brittenham was sixth in 17:35.20, Naples’s Oscar Rodriguez was seventh in 17:35.70 and Gulf Coast sophomore Nickolas Kamen was eighth in 17:39.
The Golden Eagles scored its top five runners inside the top 26.
Hoptar Invitational at Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres
1. Fort Myers 48; 2. Charlotte 130; 3. Estero 139; 4. North Port; 5. Lemon Bay; 6. Naples; 7. Lely; 8. Cape Coral; 9. Canterbury; 10. LaBelle; 11. Venice; 12. Riverdale; 13. Gulf Coast; 14. Barron Collier; 15. ECS; 16. North Fort Myers; 17. Cypress Lake; 18. CSN; 19. Marco Island; 20. Island Coast; 21. DeSoto County; 22. Bishop Verot; 23. Golden Gate; 24. Ida Baker.
1. Krissy Gear (FM) 19:38; 2. Isabella Coogan (Cha) 19:50; 3. Kayla Easterly (NFM) 20:03; 4. Fiona Kurland (FM); 5. Kelsi Ogilvie (LB); 6. Jillian Dempsey (Nap); 7. Jenna Fedec (FM); 8. Alayna Goll (Est); 9. Maddison Welch (LB); 10. Olivia Watt (Marco) 11. Chelsey Oliver (Riv); 12. Megan Giovanniello (Est); 13. Kristen Robinson (LB); 14. Maura Poling (Lely); 15. Adrian Pascotto (BC).
1. Fort Myers 64; 2. Naples 71; 3. Estero 100; 4. Lely; 5. Gulf Coast; 6. LaBelle; 7. North Port; 8. Venice; 9. Immokalee; 10. Cape Coral; 11. Barron Collier; 12. Port Charlotte; 13. Island Coast; 14. Charlotte; 15. First Baptist Academy; 16. Dunbar; 17. Mariner; 18. Ida Baker; 19. Riverdale; 20. Bishop Verot; 21. Oasis; 22. Palmetto Ridge; 23. Cypress Lake; 24. ECS; 25. Lemon Bay; 26. SFCA; 27. North Fort Myers; 28. CSN; 29. Golden Gate; 30. South Fort Myers; 31. DeSoto County; 32. Gateway Charter; 33. Imagine School.
1. Yoan Prado (LaB) 16:59; 2. Josh Wagner (Lely); 3. Arye Beck (Est); 4. Sam Hordinski (FM); 5. Josh Kennedy (FM); 6. Hugh Brittenham (Est); 7. Oscar Rodriguez (Nap); 8. Nickolas Kamen (GC); 9. Austin Peel (Nap); 10. Jordan Russo (BC); 11. Jack Matute (PR); 12. Evan Seech (FM); 13. Cody Demalavez (Lely); 14. Chris Davis (Nap); 15. Dylan Clark (Nap).