In a Hollywood ending, Calvary Christian junior cross-country star Joel Lacy sticks to the script and walks off with a Class 2A state title in November.
If that scenario unfolds, Lacy, whose flashes of brilliance have been intertwined with the occasional jumping out early in races and ad-libbing the remainder of the course, will have finally shown the restraint necessary in the heat of battle to win it all.
Calvary cross-country coach Scott Sherrod said Lacy’s ability to temper a competitive streak is the wild card in Lacy’s quest for state gold.
“Joel’s competitiveness can be his own worst enemy,” Sherrod said. “At the end of the day, however, I would rather have that than have to motivate him. He wants to win, he knows there is a formula for that, and he trusts that I know what that is. Still, I wouldn’t put it past him to run his first race the way he feels like it. But that is how you learn.”
Since Lacy’s ballyhooed arrival last season, the challenge for Sherrod has been learning how to incorporate Lacy’s high-motor approach into a more efficient running style.
Although Lacy’s physical gifts are unquestioned, his next jump to state champion will be determined by improved patience and a feel for when to make his decisive move. Lacy, whose personal-best 15:58 at the Foot Locker South Regionals is Broward’s top returning time, is bidding for a third consecutive All-Broward first-team selection.
A banner sophomore season was highlighted by finishing second at the Spanish River Invitational, first at flrunners.com Invitational, first at Westminster Academy and a sweep of district and Region 4-2A titles.
Lacy said fine-tuning the mental aspects of his race will be the mantra this season.
“I’m focusing on controlling myself more,” Lacy said. “Be more patient and run a smarter race. Mental strength would be my greatest strength. The brain controls the rest of the body. If your brain is stronger than your body, then your body will be a slave to your brain.”
At the Region 4-2A championships last season, Lacy followed Sherrod’s game plan and emerged victorious, setting himself up for a top-four finish at state.
Lacy bided his time in the front pack before answering a strong challenge from his biggest rival, Ransom Everglades’ star Gabriel Correa, to win in 16:22.
But all the momentum Lacy built up in that regional win deflated a week later as he went out too fast and faded to eighth place at the Class 2A state finals, behind four runners he beat at regionals.
“It just says that I was peaked for regionals,” Lacy said. “I don’t know how ready I was for that race. I wanted to win it, but I don’t know if I was ready. But I’m definitely going into this season for a state championship.”
With the top-four finishers at states graduated, Correa (16:01), who finished fifth along with Immokalee’s Urias Velasquez (16:01), looms as Lacy’s toughest challenge for a state title.
“Joel wants to win as much as anybody I ever met,” Sherrod said. “It is just the way he is wired. That is just the way God made him. He has beautiful running mechanics, naturally put together. His strength is his determination. He has great parental support, and he has self-motivation. We will hopefully dial him in for Nov. 15.”
2013 STATE CHAMPIONS
1. St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Pine Crest
3. Pines Charter
4. Calvary Christian
5. Westminster Academy
6. Coral Glades
7. Cypress Bay
9. Cardinal Gibbons
1. St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Pine Crest
3. Westminster Academy
4. Cardinal Gibbons
5. Cypress Bay
6. South Florida HEAT
7. North Broward
8. Pines Charter
9. West Broward
TOP SEVEN RETURNING GIRLS’ TIMES
*Alexa Cruz, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr., 18:02
Margaret Schloss, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 18:20
**Julia Montgomery, Pine Crest, Jr., 18:22
Brianna Rischar, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 18:24
Tsion Yared, Pine Crest, 7th grade, 18:27
Katherine Jovanovic, Pine Crest, So., 18:48
Lily Kloepfer, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr., 19:33
*Defending Class 4A state champion
**Two-time defending Class 2A state champion
TOP SEVEN RETURNING BOYS’ TIMES
Carlos Penaranda, Pines Charter, Sr., 15:56
Joel Lacy, Calvary Christian, Jr., 15:58
Bryce Statham, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 16:05
Daniel Penaranda, Pines Charter, Sr., 16:25
Alec Dominguez, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 16:25
Alex Margetts, Douglas, Sr., 16:30.54
Michael Kennedy, Pine Crest, So. 16:30.54
OTHER BOYS’ RUNNERS TO WATCH
OTHER GIRLS’ RUNNERS TO WATCH