PEACHTREE CITY, GA –Fall leaves were scattered and blowing along the rolling cross-country paths, and the morning started out cool and overcast, but the athletes hopes were high for that day, and they did not leave disappointed. Thirtynine athletes from the Florence Track Club, a club sponsored through the City of Florence Parks and Recreation division, competed in the USATF Jr. Olympic Regional Cross Country championships to try to qualify for the Nationals –going after the top 30 spots in the region or finishing with the top five teams.
Twenty-five of the 39 qualified to compete on Dec. 14 in San Antonio, TX, at the USATF Jr. Olympic National Cross Country Championships. Six have chosen to take on the challenge: Jack and Morgan Banner, Julian Duncan, Jamari McCall, Zane Morris and Jack Wilson.
Several teams from the Florence Track Club qualified for the nationals, placing in the top five in the region. The bantam boys team of Conner Bailey (23rd place, 12:02.60), Jack Banner (2nd place, 11:20.00), Owen Jensen (49th place, 13:26.10), Jake McKenzie (57th place, 13:50.70), Lucas Morgan (35th place, 12:46.00), Zane Morris (24th place, 12:03.30), and Jack Wilson (50th place, 13:26.80) qualified as a team in their 3k race, placing 3rd in the region. The sub-bantam boys team, made up of Andy Branham (28th, 8:58.92), Julian Duncan (11th place, 8:17.12), Jacob Gard (24th place, 8:53.22), Anish Kalur (47th place, 10:58.91) and Arthur Parham (7th place, 8:02.51) running a 2k race, qualified as a team, placing 3rd in the region. The sub-bantam girls team, made up of SaraBeth Bailey (22nd, 10:00.10), Morgan Banner (19th place, 9:42.98), Jamie Gard (17th place, 9:40.57), Amogha (42nd place 15:42.16) and Anagha Kalur (43rd place, 16:38.49), and Grace McKenzie (21st place 9:56.73) running a 2k race, also qualified as a team, placing 3rd in the region.
Among those who qualified on a strictly individual basis to participate in the Nationals were Sarah McCown (22nd place, 12:21.00), running a 3k race, and Sarah Spence (29th place, 17:50.47), running a 4k race. Those who qualified, running a 5k race were Benjamin Bigelow (17th place, 17:37.07), Harriotte Davis (12th place, 21:37.40), Grayson Hill (27th place, 19:52.20), Jamari McCall (24th place, 22:21.07), and Steve Shake (28th place, 19:58.71).
The region level required qualification at the state level, and those who qualified at the State level but did not qualify at the National level did very well at the Regionals, many breaking their own personal records. Those running the 3k races included Brooke Bluman (68th place, 18:21.37), Sophia Clavon (69th place, 15:03.60), Darion Cole (34th place, 18:29.11), Jaycie Gard (60th place, 15:04.85), Mikayla John (55th place, 14:47.21), Walker Lilly (40th place, 12:18.19), Ivan Morris (35th place, 11:57.54), Nicholas Olsen (61st place, 14:32.33), Margaret Parham (60th place, 13:55.40), Julia Rowe (66th place, 14:42.70), and SaraBeth Small (73rd place, 16:25.30). Running a 4k race were Josiah Clavon(61st place, 17:16.25), Luke McKenzie (67th place, 18:08.95), and Jessica Gard (45th place, 21:03.33).
Donations to help fund these six individuals going to represent Florence at the USATF Jr. Olympic Nationals are being gratefully accepted by the Florence Track Club through the City of Florence Parks and Recreation Division.