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North cross-country running toward postseason

October 4, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The North Fort Myers High School boys and girls cross country teams had the opportunity to see where it stacked up against some of the more elite running programs in the region at The North Port High School XC Invitational on Sept. 22.

For the girls, it was better than expected, while the boys had some great moments as individuals that could result in deep runs into the state meet.

For the girls, the team posted a fifth-place finish in the large school division at one of the biggest meets in the state.

Freshman Savannah Taylor led the way in the large school division with a seventh-place finish and a time of 22:41.3. Ashley Easterly, whose sister, Kayla, starred at North in distance running, was 23rd despite coming back from a hip injury.

Christine Castillo, girls coach, said she was pleased that her top girls finished strong and the rest clustered well together.

"We like to run in a pack. We have several girls who run in pairs to push each other. That's a strength," Castillo said. "About half the team is freshmen, which we haven't had before and we have the biggest and best team we've had in years."

And it's been Taylor who has broken from the pack, running with the better runners in the region on a notoriously fast track.

"The course felt fast because it was flat and dry. I felt good the whole way through so I felt I could continually take down runners. I was able to pick off three runners every mile," Taylor said. "My season hasn't been as good as I would like. I would like to get in the 21s."

Taylor, who has been running since elementary school, said she understands the pressure of being counted on to be the future of the program.

"It's kind of scary, but it's nice to see everyone else push each other so they can get to the next level, too," Taylor said. "The seniors have been helpful working on our form and doing it more technically and efficiently."

The boys didn't quite have the same success, finishing 10th out of 19 schools in the large division. The Red Knights had a pair of runners who ran well, however.

Junior Joshua Varner was 33rd with a time of 19:01.1, with Nekhi Perry just four seconds and two places behind. He said it was good to compete against so many programs and in front of so many people.

"We had a lot of good times between both teams and it helped to have the crowd all the way around it to pick us up," Varner said. "With so many schools there's a higher drive to beat them so you have to perform at your best."

Varner said it's the first time he's been part of such a strong team with quality depth.

"The girls had a good team last year. This is the first time the boys have rounded up some good runners and be able to put a team out there," Varner said.



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