Boys cross country takes first at Deland Invitational


photo by James Lopez

Junior Jonathan Leon approaches the final 100 meters. Leon finished at a 16:02 time and landed 1st place.

On Sept. 3, the cross country team set out to the Deland Invitational for their second meet of the season. A normally smooth and fast course was radically changed due to weather the night before. Every turn and straight away had enough mud to take off shoes and puddles of water that would swallow a runner’s entire foot.

These conditions, though, did not deter the team. The girls placed 10th overall and the boys captured 1st behind junior Jonathan Leon (16:02), senior Miguel Pantojas (16:40), junior Gabriel Abbate (17:18) and senior Aiden Wetzl (17:19). Leon and Pantojas were able to get 1st and 2nd while Abbate and Wetzl took seventh and ninth respectively. 

The girls were led by freshman Ava Howell (22:08), junior Kailyn David (23:38), and freshman Lia Miller (23:44), placing 18th, 33rd and 34th respectively. All three were able to knock off 30 seconds or more off their time compared to the previous meet. 

The first place finish for the boys varsity team was a positive, especially coming off the heels of the departure of Brayden Seymour, who moved to California over the summer. This lets Seymour’s family be closer to his sister and gives him the opportunity to compete with the top cross country team in the nation, Newbury Park.

According to head coach Jay Getty, this has left a hole within the varsity lineup going into the season, with the team no longer having the 1 ,2, 3 punch with Leon, Pantojas and Seymour.

“Anytime you lose a top caliber athlete, it’s a hole, but what it really is, is an opportunity,” Getty said. “That opportunity is already showcasing itself because people have already stepped into that. We still have a good team and we’re going to do great things.” 

Last year, the boys placed 15th out of a 32-team field at states. The team hopes to get back to states and work towards a higher placement.

“I think the team will do just as well as we did last year,” sophomore Thomas Chitty said, “especially with how many new dedicated freshmen we have.” 

The team will compete at the Astronaut Invitational on Sept. 10, hoping to continue the strong start of the season they have had so far.

“As Al Carius says, ‘run for fun and personal bests.’ I mean, that’s what everybody’s out here for, and that’s our job as coaches,” Getty said. “We’ll hit those marks and we’ll see how far that train takes us when it comes down to the state series.”