The COVID-19 pandemic teamed up with Tropical Storm Eta to alter portions of last week’s high school athletic schedule.
Eta, which reportedly was the first tropical storm to make landfall in Florida during the month of November in 22 years, prompted the Florida High School Athletic Association to adjust its schedules for the cross country, girls volleyball, and swimming and diving state championships.
Cross country shifted back one day to an all-weekend format – the original schedule covered Friday (Nov. 13) and Saturday (Nov. 14) – at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. But the change did not prevent neither the Lake Wales boys team nor Frostproof junior Cristal Gomez and Lake Region ninth-grader Anika Donohue from competing successfully.
The Lake Wales boys program capped another solid season with a fourth-place finish at Saturday’s Class 3A state finals.
The Highlanders’ first four runners placed among the top 52 finishers, while their official scoring order ranged from four to 86 for a total of 178 points. Belen Jesuit (30), Sunlake (123) and Ponte Vedra (142) represented the top three in a field of 16 schools that registered a team score.
Eleven different runners came in under the 16-minute mark, while Lake Wales’ Mac Updike led a group of eight separated by just over five seconds. Updike’s time of 15 minutes, 54.4 seconds was good for fourth place – Ponte Vedra’s Lucas Bouquot crossed 11th in 15:59.9 – behind third-place finisher Jacob Rogers (15:46.4) of Leon High.
Landon Morales finished 28th overall (16:40.2) and Ladarius Tellis followed in 30th (16:41). Joseph Cotto (52nd, 17:00.2), Amari Smith (102nd, 18:12.5) and Garner Kloth (103rd, 18:16.8) rounded out the Lake Wales contingent.
In the Class 3A girls race, Donohue completed an impressive freshman season by representing the Thunder as an individual. Donohue’s time of 20:40.1 left her 53rd in field of 125 total competitors.
Sunday’s Class 2A girls race had Gomez finish in 11th place out of 125 runners. Gomez clocked a time of 19:32 and she was one of 20 competitors in the field to cross the line in under 20 minutes.