In the long run, it was certainly worth it.
It took John Carroll High School more than three decades, but its girls cross country team finally went the distance – all the way to the state meet.
Running in the Florida 1A Division, John Carroll was one of 24 schools represented and one of 22 complete teams with seven runners competing in a field of nearly 180.
Team captain Lauren Macon, a senior at John Carroll, ran her personal best in the race and placed 24th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 5 seconds and 36 milliseconds – it’s those milliseconds that make the difference between 24th and 25th. Teammate Alivia Bienz came in just behind Macon, by 32 milliseconds.
“We set our goals at the beginning of the year to become better runners,” Macon said after the meet.
Not only did they want to work hard, she said, but also to earn the same recognition as more popular sports, such as football. “I believe that we exceeded this expectation and I couldn’t be more honored to say I am a part of such a wonderful group of intelligent, strong and powerful group of young women.”
The meet was held at Florida State University in Tallahassee, under sunny, clear skies and a chilly 50 degrees, said coach Chris Robertson.
“The season was absolutely great,” he said before the weekend’s meet. The team got to work in August and gelled as a team quickly as the girls ran daily together.
“They’ve stepped up” every time, Robertson said, explaining that this season saw John Carroll’s cross country team compete in meets it hadn’t before participated in.
At the regionals, the team was seeded second. He told the girls to stick with their plan. They took second in the district.
It was their first trophy since 1982.
“The girls worked hard all season on and off the course,” said Robertson following the state competition. “They had some great success and will no doubt be back next year.”
He said before the states that the team was “taking it to heart” that they were making a difference for the school, and creating a legacy. “They’re just as excited as I am,” he said.
For athletes at John Carroll, no matter how great a competitor they are on their field, their No. 1 priority is academics, the coach said. Even still, “I’m a competitor. Do I want to win? Of course!”
Regardless of the outcome from the state meet, Robertson said that it was an honor the team made it to that level. “You can never take that away from them.”
“It was so impressive seeing them put themselves on the line,” Athletic Director Nancy Hopper said following last weekend’s competition.
Hopper said it was a joy watching the team compete, and hopes to see the team return to the states in the coming seasons.
Robertson lamented the loss of three seniors from the team going forward – Macon, Bienz and Taylor Pottorff. “But the others will step up to continue the tradition,” he said.
Also appearing at the state meet was boys cross country runner Zach Rohrbough, who placed 40th out of 204 runners with a time of 17:19, a personal record.
“Zach has an amazing work ethic and plans on using this meet as a stepping stone to something special next year,” Robertson said.
Rohrbough’s time now stands as the second fastest in the history of John Carroll High cross country.