As Lauren Gavulic, 17, began her senior year of high school, she set her personal goals as a student/athlete and part of the John A. Ferguson Senior High School girls cross-country team.
Gavulic, who has loved running since she was a little girl, finally broke her 20-minute record at the Dade County Youth Fair Championship last year, when she finished sixth in the 5K cross-country race.
In this year’s race, she doesn’t plan on taking it easy.
“[Breaking 20 minutes] was a big step for me,” she said. “This year I’m going to push myself — I want to see my limits.”
Student/athletes across Miami-Dade will gather for the Youth Fair’s annual Cross-Country Race, this time competing for a new prize — the Mayor’s Cup.
Middle and high schoolers all over the county will kick off the Youth Sports Championship Series by racing at the Larry and Penny Thompson Park, 12451 SW 184th St., in Miami on Sept. 18, and competing for the ultimate prize from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“This Mayor’s Cup — it’s never been done before,” said Larry Wooten, county cross-country superintendent.
As the meet director with about 30 years of experience, Wooten puts together the event every year along Ryan Raposo, Gavulic’s coach at Ferguson Senior High.
“This is one of the best meets because all public schools and all private schools can compete head to head,” Raposo said.
Unlike other cross-country meets, the Youth Sports Championship Series is open to all public and private schools across the county, Raposo said, which fuels the rivalries among public and private teams to see who is really the best.
When she’s about to compete, Gavulic prepares for the competition by anticipating and accepting what she’ll have to overcome during the race.
“The only thing going through your mind is that it’s going to hurt,” she said. “The physical hurt, but also the mental hurt when someone is going to pass you.”
About 30 high schools and 30 middle schools register online to compete in this meet, Wooten said, adding up to more than 1,500 students.
At the meet, the boys and girls race in the categories of varsity and junior varsity — a total of eight races among the middle and high school athletes.
Aside from cross-country, teams from public and private schools will be competing in tennis, track and field, baseball, flag football, golf, swimming, wrestling, cheer and dance, and soccer. The champions of each sport will each receive the Mayor’s Cup.
Each sport is run by a different person, and Alan Keen, liaison coordinator of the Youth Fair Athletic Program, organizes the joint efforts of the Youth Fair, the county parks department and the public school system to get student/athletes involved.
“I worked with the [school] district for 46 years and in parks and recreation for about 37 years,” Keen said. “Knowledge of all the people and set ups helps.”
Individual students may win medals, and all participants will receive a two-day ticket to go to the fair, said Claudia Hernandez-Maltes, spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition.
“We are very happy to be a part of the youth sports series,” said Hernandez-Maltes. “We want to continue to give the children the different athletic events.”