After being supplanted by Dana Thomas as Westminster Christian’s No. 1 runner this season, Victoria Hoppe returned to a familiar spotlight at the Region 4-1A championships on Saturday.
Hoppe, who has embraced Thomas, pulled away for good at the two-mile mark to claim her first region title in 19:58 at the Westminster Academy sports complex.
It marked Hoppe’s first victory over Thomas, who was slowed by the flu and finished second in 20:21.
“This definitely was a bit of a surprise,” Hoppe said. “I’ve wanted this since my eighth-grade year. Dana has been running great all season. She was sick today. We were working off each other the entire time. I have been running second all year but I have absolutely nothing against that. I had an incredible season. I got PR’s I didn’t think I could run because Dana has been pushing me all season.”
With Hoppe, Thomas, seventh grade sensation Hailey Mira and Natasha Strump going 1-2-3-6, the Eagles, ranked No. 7 in the FACA Class 1A poll, cruised to its second consecutive region title with 29 points.
Westminster coach Jose Garcia said outside the development of Mira and Strump, it has been Hoppe’s team-first approach which will have the Warriors in a battle with Community School, Shorecrest Prep and Orlando First Academy for a top five finish at the FHSAA Class 1A State Finals at on Nov.9.
Following a rare leap from school cheerleader to the Warriors’ No.1 runner, Thomas has commanded most of the attention this season by winning District 16-1A, finishing second at the Disney Classic, fourth at the Junior Orange Bowl Invitational and first at the Spanish River Invitational.
Garcia credits Hoppe’s willingness to accept a secondary role has been crucial in the Warriors maintaining team harmony and staying focused.
“The way Victoria came in and started working is amazing,” Garcia said. “She was our number one last year. The way she accepted that and came back to No. 2 and worked with Dana has been the most impressive thing. It’s not easy to go from No. 1 to all of a sudden No. 2. It hurts. She has taken it in stride and elevated her game.
The top 15 finishers and top six teams advance to the State Finals.
The Warriors were thinking a team sweep when Westminster Academy’s No. 3 runner, John Luke, pulled up with a hamstring injury but had to settle for second place with 100 points. But despite the setback the Lions won the boys team title with 100 points and the Warriors placed second behind a 10-12-13 finish behind Hunter Ager (18:03), Shane Riera (18:08) and Parker Brannon (18:09).
Doctors Charter’s Josiah McLaughlin had a Dad-best fifth place finish in 17:35 and Dade Christian’s Iverson Williams finished eleventh in 18:05.
Region 4-1A championships: Girls’ individual results – 1. Victoria Hoppe (WC) 19:58, 2. Dana Thomas (WC) 20:21, 3. Hailey Mira (WC) 20:26, 4. Amanda Baker (WA) 20:41, 5. Carolyn Shields (SFH) 21:01, 6. Natasha Strump (WC) 21:08, 7. Jenna Evans (SFH)21:08, 8. Fyfe (Oxbridge) 21:10, 9. Reback (Ben) 21:25, 10. Erin Shields (SFH) 21:32, 11. Rhian Romanik (AC) 21:34, 12. Ella Wright (PT)21:35, 13. Richardson (KA) 21:43, 14. Emily Edmunds (CSC)21:46, 15. Abigail Serda (SFH)21:46. Girls’ team scores: Westminster Christian 29, South Florida Heat 60, King’s Academy 113, Westminster Academy 128, Miami Country Day 136, Palmer Trinity 153. Boys’ individual results – 1. Charles Otto (BRC) 16:57, 2. Casey McCracken (WA)17:10, 2. Brandon Bejarano (WA) 17:18, 4. Bradford (JC) 17:26, 5. Josiah McLaughlin (DC) 17:35, 6. Patrick Sastre (WA) 17:58, 7. Ryan Szklany (HC) 18:01, 8. Matese (Ben) 18:02, 9. Sawnson (ATLC) 18:02, 10. Hunter Ager (WC) 18:03, 11. Iverson Williams (DC) 18:05, 12. Shane Riera (WC)18:08, 13. Parker Brannon (WC) 18:09, 14. Hunter (WellChr)18:10, 15. Pereira (DS)18:11. Boys’ team scores: Westminster Academy 72, Westminster Christian 100, John Carroll 109, Miami Country Day 117, Wellington Christian 131, Doctors Charter 147.