It would only figure that in the year of the freshmen, Pine Crest’s Julia Montgomery and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Alexa Cruz would restore Broward among the FHSAA state cross-country state title fraternity.
In ending an 11-year state-title drought for Broward, Montgomery became the first individual state champion for Pine Crest, and Cruz helped the St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ team win an elusive state title at the state finals at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee on Saturday.
After finishing second to American Heritage eighth-grader Daesha Rogers in the district and regional finals, Montgomery turned the tables on her rival by winning the Class 2A state race in 18:20.
Pine Crest coach Paul Baur predicted the hilly Apalachee course would negate the speed advantage Rogers held at Mills Pond, and Montgomery made Baur look prophetic by executing the race plan to perfection.
“We knew Daesha would take it out hard,” Baur said. “Julia caught up with her at the half-mile point and started running side by side. Once they got to the steep, uphill climb, that was where Julia made up ground on Daesha. In about 15 seconds, Julia put about 30 meters on Daesha. Just on that surge.”
A school-best second-place finish by the Pine Crest girls’ team — behind Montgomery, Ella Wurth, Katherine Jovanovic, Savanna Gornisiewicz and Mahlet Yared — should keep the Panthers in the thick of the state-title chase with state champion Jacksonville Bolles.
Meanwhile, Cruz clocked 18:14 to finish second in the girls’ 4A race and Christina Kalis, Brianna Rischar, Marina Braynon-Moore, Megan Schloss and Lily Kloepfer went 11-13-15-18-29 to help the Raiders end Tampa Plant’s two-year reign as champion. With the Raiders’ top seven runners returning, Aquinas is in position to hold a monopoly on the Class 4A title.
Not to overlooked was a school-best, third-place finish by the boys’ team, which defied the odds after losing eight of its top 10 runners from last season.
Raiders coach Trish Butler downplayed a vow by the girls’ team to win the state title for her.
She said her sole focus was having both Aquinas’ teams sharing the top of the podium next season.
“This year I empowered the captains to determine destiny of the team,” Butler said. “What the girls did was remarkable, and the boys weren’t even ranked coming into this season.
“For both to end up with the best teams in St. Thomas history was really saying something. It wasn’t just about the girls. It was about them together.”
• Western 68, Pompano Beach 29 – WES (1-0): Katz 13, Radler 4, DeLuca 13, Artaza 9, Lewis 5, James 11, Khan 2, Harris 2, Howard 2, Royes 7. PB (0-1): Bennett 4, Satahoq 3, Cyrille 2, James 1, Sineus 11, Schwingel 4, Kerr 2, Lopez 2. Halftime: WES 34-13. Three-pointers: DeLuca, Sineus. Rebounds: James, Artaza 8. Assists: Katz 6. Steals: Katz 5. Fouled out: Cyrille.
Deerfield Beach 72, Douglas 48 – DB (1-0): Johnson 18, Marcus 17, Jenkins 12, Kelly 3, Carpenter 9, Huntley 13. DOUG (0-1): Affatati 1, Kacprzak 20, Miednik 12, Franco 11, Hernandez 1, Allison 3. Halftime: DB 29-19. Rebounds: Jenkins 10. Assists: Carpenter 6. Steals: Carpenter 4. Blocks: Huntley 3.
• Westminster Christian 57, Sheridan Hills Christian 41 – WC: McLean 9, M. Raine 13, Potter 2, J. Raine 8, Blanco 5, Miller 6, Cronkite 4, Barbato 3, Cutilas 6, Irvin 1. Rebounds: M. Raine 8.