Lady Bulldogs, Chargers first
News-Gazette Photos/Donald Lamb St. Cloud’s Karissa Solorzano, left, and Gracie Miller ran side by side for most of the OBC meet Wednesday at Poinciana. Solorzano won at the finish line.
Dogs’ Solorzano, Liberty’s Araiza are medalists again
By Rick Pedone
Not much changed at the Orange Belt Conference cross country meet at Poinciana Wednesday.
St. Cloud’s girls and Liberty’s boys won the team championships for the third consecutive year.
And, the individual winners, St. Cloud’s Karissa Solorzano and Liberty’s Rogelio Araiza, repeated as the girls and boys individual champions.
The Lady Bulldogs (17), who had seven runners among the top 10, weren’t challenged. Harmony (72) was the runner-up, followed by Liberty (92), Poinciana (104), Osceola (120) and Celebration (127).
Liberty’s boys (47), on the other hand, had to ward off a serious threat from improved Harmony (54). St. Cloud (73), Celebration (104), Osceola (113), Gateway (127) and Poinciana (128) were next.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. Our pack was late, but it made its move just in time,” Liberty Coach Robert Pauley said. “Hats off to Harmony. Their kids ran very well.”
After Araiza, the next Liberty runners crossed in positions 10 through 14. Harmony had three runners among the top six, but its next runner came in 17th place.
The top five times count.
Araiza (17:40) held off Harmony’s Jacob Gilbert (17:43) for the championship after Gilbert briefly took the lead with about 200 yards remaining in the race.
“He did (take the lead) for a couple of yards, but I knew that I would get him in the last 200 yards. I have a pretty good finishing kick,” Araiza said.
St. Cloud’s Solorzano (20:58) made up a 10-yard deficit at the finish line to nip teammate Gracie Miller (20:59) as the runners entered the finishing gate.
“Honestly, no, I didn’t think I would make it,” Solorzano said. “I got by her at the last moment I could.”
The teammates had raced side-by-side during the 3.1-mile run until Miller broke away and appeared to secure the victory with 150 meters left.
“I wasn’t expecting her to come back like that, but she made a great run at the end,” Miller said.
Solorzano said her desire to be a champion during her senior year propelled her.
“All of the emotions and memories of the last few years popped into my head, and that’s what made me run so hard at the end,” Solorzano said. “I wanted to be the champion as a senior.”
Joining Solorzano and Miller on the all-OBC (top seven) team are St. Cloud’s Octavia Gonzalez (22:45) and Kim Napolean (23:17), Liberty’s Yazmizel Haase (23:20), Celebration’s Christine Infantolino (23:27) and St. Cloud’s Jessica Martin (23:39).
After Araiza and Gilbert, the boys all-OBC team has Celebration’s Justin Corinealdi (17:56), St. Cloud’s Harvey Ferreira (18:03), Harmony’s Canyon Huff (18:17) and Jose Loredo (18:22), and St. Cloud’s Jarrett McNutt (18:37).
Pauley said his team is coming together just in time for next week’s 3A-8 district meet.
“We didn’t have anyone coming back, so Coach (Robert) Lauster and I worked out an arrangement for his basketball players to compete with us. But, we had about four weeks to prepare them,” Pauley said. “The only thing we could do was bring them along as hard as we could as fast as we could so they’d lose their legs early and then have time to get them back.”
St. Cloud Coach Kevin Harkema said his girls team, ranked fifth in its region, should be a co-favorite at next week’s 4A-5 district meet at Lakeland George Jenkins.
“Jenkins beat us at our invitational, but Karissa was testing that day and that would have made a difference of a few points,” Harkema said. “We’re pretty much on track. Karissa and Gracie had quite a run. I thought Gracie had it, but Karissa just decided that, being a senior, she was going to win it.”
St. Cloud, Gateway, Osceola and Celebration run at the 4A-5 meet Wednesday. Harmony goes to Lake Nona for the 3A-6 district meet, and Poinciana visits Tenoroc in 2A-9. New Dimensions and City of Life compete at The First Academy Friday for the A-7 meet. Liberty travels to Sebring Friday in 3A-8.
The top four teams advance to the regional meets Nov. 2.