Both of Sullivan Middle School’s girls cross country teams took first place at the North County Middle School Cross Country League championship meet, Oct. 25, at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
Team points are derived by adding the positions of a school’s first five finishers; a school’s sixth and seventh runners are not scored, but their position can add points to another team’s total. The Sullivan eighth-grade girls won their race with 38 points while the sixth-grade and seventh-grade Sullivan girls had 73 points in their team victory.
“We had phenomenal results this year,” Sullivan coach Tamara Miller said.
The championship meet survived discussion among the coaches whether to cancel the races due to a heat advisory for Oct. 25. A decision was made on the night of Oct. 24 to change the course rather than to cancel the meet.
“They ended up moving forward with it,” Miller said.
The course was shortened from 1.85 miles to 1.61 miles and altered to avoid the portions where excessive heat would most likely impact the runners.
“They changed the course so it eliminated the hill,” Miller said. “They reduced the course so it was mostly shaded through the park.”
Two of the 28 schools in the North County Middle School Cross Country League withdrew from the meet due to the triple-digit temperature, so 26 schools participated. “The kids did fine,” Miller said.
Miller prepared the team nutritionally before the competition.
“They were well-hydrated for the race,” Miller said.
No reports of heat-related injuries were received by the coaches.
Sullivan’s sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls placed first among the 18 schools which had the minimum five runners for a team score in that race. The Wildcats’ total of 73 points was followed by the 89-point total of San Elijo Middle School in San Marcos. “Sixteen points is a good margin for this type of competition,” Miller said. “They really worked together to pull this off and have a strong finish.”
The Wildcats had eight of the 194 runners in the race, although sixth-grader Ava Papoulias had to withdraw approximately three-tenths of a mile from the finish due to breathing problems. Papoulias, who skipped fifth grade, turned 10 in August.
“She is headed to be highly competitive in the next two years due to starting her running career so early,” Miller said.
Usually, Papoulias finished in sixth or seventh place among Sullivan racers during the season. Sixth-grader Ashley Fawcett usually had higher finishes, but she missed the Oct. 25 race due to a cold, so only seven Sullivan runners finished the race for sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls.
“They all kind of rallied together to drastically move up as a team and come out with the win,” Miller said.
The individual winner of the race was Kalista Villatoro of Pacific Trails Middle School in Carmel Valley, who had a time of 10 minutes, 8 seconds. Malia Leupold of Carlsbad’s Valley Middle School finished the race in 10:10 for second place to edge Sullivan sixth-grader Avery Lynas, whose third-place time was 10:11.
“I thought Avery was going to get her at the very end,” Miller said.
Lynas was in third for most of the race. Hannah Schreckengaust of San Elijo finished fourth at 10:14.
Sullivan’s second finisher was sixth-grader Abby Peterson, who placed seventh overall with a time of 10:38.
“Abby was a very consistent runner. She always ran up in the top 10,” Miller said.
Lacey Fabry had a time of 10:50 for 11th place, although health issues deprived the Sullivan sixth-grader of full training as well as full previous competition experience. “Lacey hadn’t been able to race,” Miller said. “She had a lot of foot pain, so she had to rest. She was coming off being injured and not being able to train.”
The top 25 finishers in the races for sixth-graders and seventh-graders received medals, so some of those were taken home by Lynas, Peterson and Fabry.
A time of 11:36 gave sixth-grader Anay Garcia 30th place. Ariel Adicoff was Sullivan’s first seventh-grader across the finish line and placed 33rd overall with an 11:44 performance.
Sixth-grader Rori Gartner was Sullivan’s sixth finisher and the race’s 55th finisher. Gartner had a time of 12:07.
“My focus was for my 4-5-6 to stick as a pack,” Miller said.
Teammates who spend most of the race in a pack may split up closer to the end of the course. Miller told Peterson and Fabry to have Lynas in their sights and told Garcia, Adicoff and Gartner to have Peterson and Fabry in their sights.
Gartner’s sister finished second in the eighth-grade girls race.
“I’m starting to have a lot of siblings on my team, which is great,” Miller said.
Seventh-grader Haylie Horn finished 89th at 13:21, so all seven Sullivan runners who finished placed in the top half of the field.
“Extremely encouraging,” Miller said. “Each runner has drastically improved their time and results over the course of the season.”
Since seven of Sullivan’s runners are sixth-graders they are expected to be on next year’s team of sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls.
“I’m thrilled to see what they do in the next couple of years,” Miller said.
Sullivan’s total of 38 points in the eighth-grade race was followed by the 81-point total of second-place Diegueno Middle School in Encinitas.
“We crushed,” Miller said.
The Sullivan team didn’t consist entirely of eighth-graders. Maya Papoulias is in seventh grade, but she was moved up to replace a runner who did not return to the team due to participation in other sports.
“I wanted them to have a comparable team to last year,” Miller said.
The individual winner was Stormy Wallace of Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad. Paige Gartner placed second.
“That was consistent all season,” Miller said.
Wallace won the race in 9:41. Gartner finished in 10:16.
“Stormy has consistently raced out in front the whole time,” Miller said. “Everybody including my team cheers Stormy on because she’s an inspiration for the whole league.”
Mary Loring of Olive Peirce Middle School in Ramona had the third-place time of 10:22.
“Paige never really had a group of girls to push her,” Miller said. “She never really had someone to run with.”
Last year Gartner took fourth place in the race for sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls. “She’s a strong runner,” Miller said. “I think Paige is someone who can make it at the national level.”
Jordan Fawcett placed 13th at 10:50, and Maya Papoulias finished 14th with a time of 10:51. Fawcett overtook several other runners near the end of the race, including her own teammate.
“Maya was ahead of her the whole race,” Miller said.
The end of the Kit Carson course had a slight downhill incline.
“Jordan’s a really good runner,” Miller said. “She has a tremendous sprint.”
Although Papoulias settled for third rather than second among Sullivan’s competitors, she did not lose position overall.
“Maya passed some people at the end, too,” Miller said.
Papoulias was in a cast last year and did not run, so it was her first season with the Sullivan team.
“I’m looking forward to her leading the team next year,” Miller said.
Milana Collier had the 18th-place time of 10:57. Camille Pokletar finished 20th at 11:02. The top 20 finishers in each of the eighth-grade races medaled, so five of Sullivan’s eighth-grade girls took home medals.
“I’m ecstatic,” Miller said of five of her runners finishing among the top 20.
The race had nine full teams and 91 runners.
Aidan Miller had the 37th-place time of 11:45, Kaylee Lacomb became the 72nd finisher 13:18 after the race began and Dana Flinn completed the course in 14:20 for 81st place.
When the eighth-grade Sullivan girls were missing a runner during the season, they weren’t significantly hindered.
“They would just rally, join together,” Coach Tamara Miller said. “They’re so encouraging of each other.”
Last year the Sullivan sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls won the league championship; all of those girls were seventh-graders for the 2016-2017 school year and are now in eighth grade. Gartner, Fawcett, Collier, Pokletar, Aidan Miller and Lacomb all ran in last year’s league meet which gave Sullivan the league championship.
“It’s putting Sullivan on the map,” Tamara Miller said.
The banner the Sullivan girls will bring to the school gymnasium will remain after the current eighth-graders are in high school next year.
“They really put some history into our school,” Miller said. “I’m going to miss them terribly.”
Miller won’t be coaching the current eighth-grade runners in the future, but she plans to attend some of their high school meets.
“I’m looking forward to watching their high school careers,” Miller said. “All of these girls are continuing on in high school. They’re such great runners, and they’ll be impressive in high school.”
Sullivan’s sixth-grade and seventh-grade boys brought home the second-place trophy. Team members had practiced on the original Kit Carson Park course, Oct. 21, which prepared the runners for what would have been the race had the heat not changed the course. The runners were not prepared for the altered course, and some of them made wrong turns. During the race, a parent – not from Sullivan – told the runners in front to turn, which led some runners off the course. Some of the runners in the race for sixth-grade and seventh-grade boys were disqualified for not running the entirety of the new course, while others completed the full altered course but with additional distance which impacted times and places.
“I felt really bad for the 6-7 boys team,” Miller said.
That cost several Sullivan boys positions which would have equated to medals.
“They were all so very positive,” Miller said.
The chaos likely wouldn’t have affected the team results. San Elijo won the race with 40 team points, and Sullivan had 77 points.
“They know they had the potential to for sure get to third, and they obtained second, so a great finish for these determined boys,” Miller said.
The extra distance in the league championship race deprived Sullivan runners of personal records, but most of the runners improved their personal records throughout the season. “Each race different runners on their team would have massive PRs,” Miller said. “Throughout the season these boys kept improving.”
The sixth-grade and seventh-grade boys group had 18 runners this year, including 15 runners who were healthy enough to compete at the North County Middle School Cross Country League championship meet.
“It’s a balance of sixth and seventh-graders,” Miller said.
A foot injury kept Sam Bruton from competing in the Oct. 25 meet, Felix Rios was out with a pulled muscle and Chase Trulove did not run due to the flu. The Sullivan team in the sixth-grade and seventh-grade race consisted of Lucas Adams, Darian Bonilla, Wilson Christopherson, Aragon Elkins, Bode Estabrook, Evan Gaut, Carlos Lobatos, Beckett Payne, Evin Perrault, Fisher Phillips, Jayelon Rogers, Shawn Sidley, Ashton Strange, Nolan Walter and Luke Wilbert.
“They are great at passing runners near the finish,” Miller said. “They did an amazing job always. They always ran as a pack.”
The eighth-grade Sullivan boys placed fifth among the 10 full teams. The Wildcats missed fourth place and the final trophy by four points.
Colin McKinney had a time of 9:29 to finish sixth among the 120 runners.
“I’m really happy with where he finished,” Miller said.
Two other eighth-grade Sullivan boys took home medals. Kiefer Elkins had a time of 9:43 for 18th place, and Ethan McFarland finished 20th at 9:45.
Nine boys from Sullivan were in the eighth-grade race. Max Hernandez placed 43rd with a time of 10:23; Logan Adams finished in 10:32 for 53rd place; Robert McAuley was 56th with a 10:34 performance; Carlos Reyes earned 67th place with a time of 10:59; Jason Reyes took 85th place after completing the course in 11:32 and Zeke Maletych was the 88th finisher 11:35 after the race began.
“They all really improved their times over the season and had a great attitude,” Miller said.