Aquinas’ Alexa Cruz edges rival Julia Montgomery

In a highly anticipated rematch between state contenders, it was St. Thomas Aquinas’ Alexa Cruz evening the score against Pine Crest’s Julia Montgomery at the Invitational Race of Champions on Saturday.

Two weeks after Montgomery, the reigning Class 2A state champion, beat Cruz, the 2012 Class 4A state runner-up, at the City of Fort Lauderdale Championships, Cruz bounced back to finish third in 18:06 while Montgomery placed fifth in 18:24 in Titusville.

“Alexa is looking like the top contender in 4A for sure,’’ Raiders coach Trish Butler said. “There was a lot of talk about how many fast runners will be in the race. ... Alexa wanted to run in the low 18’s and be right up there. She is on her way to achieving the goals she set this season.”

Cruz and Montgomery led a strong Broward presence that included Calvary Christian’s Hannah Brookover (10th in 18:40), Cypress Bay’s Katherine MacNeal (20th in 18:54) and Aquinas’ Brianna Rischar (22nd in 18:55).

Aquinas’ Manuel Velasquez, fresh off a second-place finish in a career-best 15:42 at the Mountain Dew Invitational, finished a Broward-best 12th to help the Raiders finish third in the Boys’ Race of Champions team standings. Velasquez clocked 15:50, and Miami Sunset’s Nick Diaz staked his claim as the No. 1 boys’ runner in Florida by clocking a personal-best and U.S. No. 25 time of 15:15 for the victory. Invitational —- Winner and local finishers: Girls’ Race of Champions — 1. Karen Xiang (NE) 17:52, 2. A. Cruz (STA) 18:06, 5. Montgomery (PC) 18:24, 10. Brookover (CC) 18:40. Girls’ Invitational — 1. Claire Castillo (Titusville) 19:03. Girls’ Small School — 1. Rachel Stockton (LHP) 20:18, 6. Taggart (CC) 20:51, 10. Clements (CC) 21:22, 22. Large School — 1. Abigail Grant (Sickles) 19:28, 2. Farnesi (DC) 19:39, 4. Bowden (AM) 20:04, 8. Pujals (GP) 20:30, 10. M. Aguilar (AM) 20:36. Girls Unseeded “A” — 1. Danielle Young (Charlotte) 20:12, 7. Lauren Reynolds (CBay) 20:29. Girls Unseeded “B” — 1. Andrea Vargas (PR) 19:50. Boys’ Race of Champions — 1. Nick Diaz (SUN) 15:15, 4. Convey (CReef) 15:24, 5. R. Rodriguez (Belen) 15:29, 7. Tomas (Bel) 15:44. Boys’ small school — 1. Joel Lacy (CC) 16:35, 4. Guilbert (CC) 16:55. Boys large school — 1. James Zentmeyer (Sickles) 15:58, 8. Farrell (AM) 17:05, 9. Shine (AM) 17:05. Boys Invitational — 1. Steven Cross (MI) 15:51, G. Correa (Ransom) 16:10. Boys Unseeded “A” — 1. Sean White (Choct) 16:32, 2. Pozo (Coral Park) 16:43, 10. Marenco (Coral Park) 17:26. Boys Unseeded “B” — 1. Peter Grootens (Pace) 16:58, 3. Freire (Columbus) 17:22.

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