Buchholz surges in cross country rankings

Local cross country teams Oak Hall, Keystone Heights, Eastside and Santa Fe took the Sept. 10-12 weekend off, but the active teams managed to shake up the rankings at Jacksonville, Wildwood and Lakeland area meets. 

The Buchholz Bobcats traveled to the Bale N Trail race at Bartram High School to tackle some of Duval County’s heavyweight teams. The Buchholz girls took another second place finish behind the state’s best overall team, 2A Bolles, but the Bobcats strengthened their hold as the Region 1-4A and 4A state title favorites, beating many of the teams they will host on Nov 6.

The Bobcats are currently ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by FLrunners.com and and have a chance of winning the second title in school history. The first came in 2005—one of seven titles in area history. 

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The Buchholz boys took fourth place despite splitting up their squad into two separate races. Coach Pat Douma preaches a late season push, and he’s putting all the pieces together to make a run at qualifying for state and placing high. The Bobcat boys are ranked ninth in Class 4A, but just fifth in Region 1.

St. Francis traveled to Seffner Christian Invitational in Lakeland to tackle a tough Holloway Park course and emerged with some good performances.

And the P.K. Yonge girls traveled to Wildwood and picked up a win over Leesburg, the team’s first victory of the year.

Next weekend’s race will prove to be an important one in the rankings as St. Francis, Keystone Heights, Oak Hall, Buchholz, and Gainesville High School go head to head for the first time this season at the Alligator Lake Invitational at the Oaks Equestrian Center in Lake City. Boys start first at 7:30 a.m., while the girls follow at 7:55 a.m. You can find the results online. (If you travel to the meet, be sure to arrive early as this is a well-attended event and the parking entrance is a single lane road.)

P.K. Yonge and Eastside travel to The Villages for the Buffalo Invitational. Girls start at 8:15 a.m. and boys run at 9 a.m. Meet officials will post results online

Finally Santa Fe is scheduled to travel to Middleburg for the Bronco Invitational. Boys get started at 7:30 a.m. and girls begin 30 minutes later. 

Now, on to this week’s rankings, which includes three Buchholz girls vaulting into the top spots. To read about the criteria for these rankings, read last week’s column


1. Kate Drummond, Buchholz, Jr

At the Bale N Trail meet at Bartram High School, Drummond battled for the lead for most of the race before the state’s best 2A runner, Jillian Candelino, got some separation to deal Drummond her first loss of the year. Drummond held on for second in a time of 19:39.3. The time was slower than her 18:39 personal best at Cecil Field, but the muddy conditions did not make for fast times. Drummond will again be one of the favorites to win the Alligator Lake Invitational this upcoming weekend.

2. Lucy Voss, Buchholz, So

Voss shadowed Drummond in the lead pack and held on for a hard fought fourth place. Her time of 19:50.3 lowered the margin between her and her front running teammate from 41 seconds to 11 seconds in just two weeks. The sophomore is running tough this season and has her sights set on bigger things down the road. Look for her to continue to challenge herself against the state’s best runners this weekend.

Buchholz runners at Bale N Trail meet

3. Emma White, Buchholz, So

The third cog in the Bobcat machine went out with her teammates and held on for sixth place. Her time of 20:14.7 put three Bobcats ahead of Bolles top three runners for the second meet in a row. She hung with the lead group, but ended up in no woman’s land—the next place was 20 seconds ahead the place behind her was 14 seconds behind. That may be the lay of the land until Katie Caples and the Bobcat Invitational in two weeks, when the depth will be a bit better and give her some more competition in the trenches.

4. Sydney Miller, Oak Hall, Jr

The Eagles took the weekend off after two hard races at Cecil Field and Florida Horse Park. This week’s Alligator Lake Invitational in Lake City has been moved to the Oaks Equestrian Center course in Lake City due to flooding at the Alligator Lake course. It may not be the fastest course, but Miller is showing some mettle this season and could close the gap on the Bobcat’s top three.

5. Ani Veltcheva, GHS, Sr

Veltcheva took the weekend off—sort of. On Saturday, she competed in the Rob Ramirez City of Gainesville swimming championships. She finished fourth in the 200-yard freestyle, third in the 500-yard freestyle, and swam a leg on the second place 200-yard medley relay and second place 400-yard freestyle relay. We’ll see if in this upcoming week if she can have the same success on the cross country course at the Alligator Lake Invitational.

6. Ashley Hamilton, Buchholz, Fr

Hamilton got her second taste of running cross country—albeit on tougher course at Bale N Trail. She held her own finishing 26th in a time of 21:26.0. Conditions won’t be much better this weekend in Lake City, but she’ll certainly be prepared to deal with soft course conditions.

7. Eleanor Whisler, Buchholz, Fr

Whisler finished just two ticks behind teammate Hamilton to finish 27th in a time of 21:28.8. She now has closed the distance between the two super frosh to two seconds. Faster courses are on the horizon with Katie Caples and the Bobcat Classic on the docket, but look for Whisler to continue to develop as a cross country runner with each race.

8. Eliana Eisner, Oak Hall, So

The Eagle sophomore took the weekend off and will be looking to get back into action at Alligator Lake, Katie Caples and the Alexander Invitational in the next few weeks. These will good tests for her.

9. Catalina Romero, St. Francis, So

Romero continues to run solid races. This time, she traveled to Lakeland with her Wolves teammates to finish 28th in a time of 21:54.77. That’s two races in a row where the sophomore has shown some toughness under difficult conditions and placed well. She also closed the margin behind Wharton’s Brook Reif by 14 seconds. 

10. Ellie Cervantes, PKY, 8th

Cervantes placed third at the Wildwood Open to lead the Blue Waves to their first team win of the season. Her time was 21:54.9, which was nearly identical to her 21:54.7 opener. Next up is the Buffalo Invitational course at the Villages. That will be a great opportunity to get a fast time against a fast field.

11. Paulina Cervantes, PKY, 8th

Paulina didn’t finish as close to her sister as she did at the Florida Horse Park season opener. However, she did get a low stick for the Blue Wave, finishing fourth in a time of 22:11.6. She was the quicker of the two Cervantes sisters last year, so we’ll see if they can both lower their times at the Buffalo Invitational next week.

12. Mackenzie Klein, Oak Hall, So

The Eagle sophomore will get a chance to break 22:00 this upcoming weekend. Her best of 22:00 came on the fast Cecil Field course two weeks ago. She clocked a 22:24.7 at the Florida Horse Park Invitational. The Oaks Equestrian course may not offer the best conditions, but with a week’s rest and training, she should be ready to compete well.

13. Jemima Tolentino, Eastside, Sr

The Ram senior will travel to The Villages to compete against P.K. Yonge and a host of other fast teams at the Buffalo Invitational. With each race, this talented senior could surprise. This will be her second test and we’ll get to see what she is capable of after the first race rust buster.

14. Lola Murfee, Oak Hall, 7th

Murfree will look to build on her solid 22:24.5 opener at the Florida Horse Park Invitational. Murfee came on strong in the latter stages of the Florida Horse Park course and is showing the savvy of a veteran. Look for a good outing for the youngster.

15. Elizabeth Blitch, Santa Fe, Sr

The Raider senior had a bye this week after two consecutive personal bests. She will look to improve on her 22:20.0 at the Bronco Classic at Middleburg High School. The course runs a bit slower, but her best came on the Apalachee Regional Park course in Tallahassee, which is not a terribly fast course.

16. Elizabeth Loosli, Buchholz, Sr

The senior found the muddy conditions of the Bale N Trail not to her liking. Her time of 24:02.7 was good enough for 79th. The margin between her in the Bobcat’s fifth runner, Eleanor Whisler widened by a minute over their Cecil Field gap. She’ll try to get back on track on a similar course as Bale N Trail at this weekend’s Alligator Lake Invitational. 

17. Laci Herron, PKY, Sr

Without Herron, P.K. Yonge raced to a win at the Wildwood Open. Herron was busy helping the Blue Wave finish second at the Rob Ramirez City of Gainesville swimming championships. She had a great meet, swimming a leg on the winning 200-yard medley relay, placing third in the 200-yard IM, fifth in the 100-yard fly and swimming a leg on their second place 200-yard freestyle relay team. She’ll have a mid-week swim meet against the city champs, Buchholz, before traveling to The Villages for the Buffalo Invitational. Look for her to continue to improve over the course of the season. 

18. Gloria Chang, Buchholz, So

Chang slipped a bit—possibly literally—at the muddy Bale N Trail meet in Jacksonville. Her time of 24:04.4 was well off her 22:52 at the Cecil Field Classic opener. She closed the gap on her teammate Loosli to two seconds, which is a positive. She’ll compete on another tough course this weekend at the Alligator Lake Invitational.

19. Gayathry Prabhakaran, GHS, Sr

The ‘Canes sat out the weekend’s slate of races to get in some training. Coach Curtis Cooper has his sights on the postseason and will count on Prabhakaran to lead his team to more improvement next weekend. She opened the season with a personal best of 23:13.9. The Oaks Equestrian Center course is equal in difficulty to the Florida Horse Park Invitational, so expect another great run from the senior.

20. Brooke Bedson, GHS, Sr

The senior has been doing this for four years and will look to improve on her second outing of the season. She’ll be pushed by a young group behind her who could form a tight pack and help the ‘Canes improve their team place showing. Bedson will look to lead the charge on this tough course.

21. Macy Morris, Eastside, Fr

Morris opener of 23:46.1 was a solid effort. With the rust shaken off, she should show some improvement in her second run of the season. The Buffalo Invitational course is average on the difficulty scale, so look for a time close or below the Florida Horse Park Invitational time.


1. Julian Bautista, St. Francis, Sr

The senior may not have had his best time, but he continued to place well, finishing 31st at the Seffner Christian Invitational at Holloway Park in Lakeland. His 18:03.48 time was 61 seconds slower than his seventh place Region 1-2A finish last November. He’ll look to regroup on a flatter course at the Alligator Lake Invitational. A run under 17 minutes should put him in the top 30 of that race.

2. Caden Montini, Oak Hall, Jr

Montini was a bit disappointed with this 23rd place finish at the Florida Horse Park Invitational. His time of 16:36.80 would have been a great time last year, but this year, he’s aiming for low to sub 16s each race. With a week’s rest and training, he’ll be fresh and ready to mix it up once again. 

3. Emerson Miller, Buchholz, Jr

The Bobcat junior held his own against two of the top five fastest runners in the state this year at the Bale N Trail Invitational. Miller’s time was 22.1 seconds behind two-time 4A cross country champion Rheinhardt Harrison of Nease, who recently committed to the University of Oregon, and 6.7 seconds behind 1A state favorite, Matthew Stratton of St. John’s Country Day. Not too bad for Miller, who finished 57th at last year’s 2A state championship in a time of 17:51.90. Miller is now ranked No. 3 in Class 4A and No. 10 statewide time-wise.

4. Asher Dobrin, Oak Hall, Sr

Dobrin improved on his season-opening time by 15 seconds in his last outing. He showed renewed confidence with his heat induced asthma under control. He’ll again face some hot and humid conditions this weekend, but everything points toward another solid race from the senior.

5. Wrigley Longstreet, Buchholz, Sr

The senior faced a tough field that featured many of the teams he’ll face at the Region 1-4A championships at the Santa Fe College course the Bobcats call home on November 6. His 14th place finish in a time of 17:06.7 showed that he is ready to compete and give the Bobcat’s the 1-2 punch they’ll need to earn a berth in the state championships for the first time since 2018. 

6. Jake Ciocca, Oak Hall, Sr

Ciocca has been knocking on the door of his personal best of 17:00.96 set at Alexander/Asics Invitational on October 3 in his first two races this season. His season best is 17:25.8 and he’s posted two nearly identical times this season. He’ll be primed to scare his personal best time this week with some rest and training after the first two weeks.

7. Tony Matchev, Buchholz, Sr

Matchev lowered his best time by 29 seconds on a tough Bale N Trail course this past Saturday. His time of 17:29.6 earned him a 25th place finish against a solid field full of Region 1-4A teams. He and Mason Kawaja—who ran his first race of the season—helped the Bobcats place a solid fourth place with 109 points. He’s ahead of where he was the past two years.

8. Phillip Matchev, Buchholz, Fr

Matchev finished fifth in the Frosh-Soph race in a time of 18:18.5. That helped the Bobcats to a score of 75 points and place third. The time was sixth fastest among the Bobcats. The Bobcat fifth through eighth runners are close together in times and someone from this group will be the key fifth scoring runner that will define them in the latter part of the season. Matchev could be that fifth runner.

9. Peter Peloso, Oak Hall, Fr

Peloso’s spring track times for last spring were 10:22.10 time for 3200 meter, which is equivalent to a 16:45 5K and 4:49.23 for 1600 meter run time, which is equivalent to a 16:41 using this projection calculator. He’s headed toward that projected time as he lowered his personal best by 15 seconds in the first two meets. Based on those times and a week of rest and training, Peloso could take off another 15 seconds. 

10. Matthew Ortiz, Santa Fe, Sr

The Raider will miss out on the head-to-head competition against most of the area’s best teams as he travels to the Bronco Classic at Middleburg High School. There will be some good competition there on a tough course. He may not get a chance to race the area’s best until the Bobcat Classic on Oct. 9. His best this season is 17:30 and his all-time personal best is 17:15. 

11. Jack Muir, Buchholz, Sr

Muir did not compete this weekend, but held his place in our rankings based on his opening performance. He’s a key piece to the Bobcats’ season and he’ll be welcomed back this week at Alligator Lake, where they could do well as a team. He’s running about 30 seconds faster than he did when he ran for St. Francis last year. He’s knocking on the door of sub 17 minutes with his personal best of 17:05. 

12. Riley Smith, Buchholz, So

Last track season, Smith’s 1600 meter time of 4:27.38 was the second-fastest time by a freshman in the state of Florida and tied for the 41st fastest fresh time in the nation. Using the time projector, that’s equivalent to a 15:26 for 5K. That hasn’t happened yet, but the potential is there. Saturday, he finished second in a time of 18:10.6 in the Frosh/Soph race at Bale N Trail to lead the Bobcats to a third place finish. He’ll get a chance to lower his time this week in what will be a competitive field with about 30 runners in the 17 to 18 minute range.

13. Hayden Schoster, St. Francis, So

The sophomore was second fastest runner on the Wolves squad his first meet, but slipped to fourth best runner this past weekend at the Seffner Christian Invitational in Lakeland. His 19:18.1 was the second time he has not challenged his season-opening time of 18:24.

14. Gabe Collante, Oak Hall, Jr

The junior sat out this week to get in some rest and training. His last outing saw him lower his season best by 51 seconds. Collante has the tools and experience to lower his season best of 17:53 and be competitive for the Eagles against this week’s field.

15. Landon Turley, St. Francis, Fr

Turley’s 19:07.38 at the Seffner Christian Invitational was not his best on paper. However, the course is one of the tougher ones in the state and runs about 30 seconds slower than some other courses. Look for another solid performance from this frosh on Saturday.

16. Joshua Adolphson, Buchholz, Jr

The Bobcat junior was the ninth fastest on his team Saturday at the Bale N Trail. His 18:47.3 was not his best time on paper, but it was on a slow course. He’ll look to earn a spot on the highly competitive Bobcat varsity this weekend.

17. Quinten Dragstedt, Oak Hall, So

The Eagle sophomore had the weekend off after two highly competitive races to start the season. The Alligator Lake Invitational will be just as competitive and the Eagles will look to Dragstedt to contribute as they make their way toward season goals. His 18:15 time this season is running nearly a minute faster than he did last year. 

18. Lucas Conaty, St. Francis, Sr

After two consecutive weeks of lowering his personal best time, the senior slowed to 19:19.19 and placed fourth for his Wolves’ team. The Oaks Equestrian Center course won’t be as challenging as the Holloway Park course, but the turns, soft surface and narrowness of the course make it a tough race. 

19. Finn Smith, GHS, Sr

One term to describe this ‘Cane senior is “raw.” With only three days of training he posted a 17:46.89 to finish fifth at District 2-3A meet, then ran 17:53.80 to finish 25th at the Region 1-3A meet last year. This year he has dropped water polo and travel soccer to turn his attention to running and has reaped the benefits. His 17:41.70 at the Florida Horse Park Invitational was fifth best among area runners. 

21. Mason Kawaja, Buchholz, Jr

The junior cracks into the rankings after running 17:35.5 at the Bale N Trail to finish third runner for the Bobcat team and 27th overall. Former Bobcat head coach Mike Lehning touted this runner last year and now I see why. His long legs and lightness on his feet are defining features of a great runner. If he can stay away from injury, overtraining, and over-racing, he may realize the talent that propelled him to a 9:50.73 for 3200 meters in track in the spring—a projected time of 15:54. 

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