After districts, Sharks look ahead

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By Jenna McKenna

Frankie Beckham shattered his course time at Mt. Dora from last season, shaving a full three minutes to finish the district meet in 21:31.

Joseph Bishop dropped almost two minutes from his time last year for a 21:35 finish. Aaron Esposito took more than three minutes off his course time and battled yearlong Seven Rivers foe Jacob Benoit into the chute.

Josh Loyd, Thomas Benefield and Josh Lumley managed to stay close to the Shark leaders, so that all seven runners finished within 30 places. Unfortunately, the team didn’t score low enough to advance to regionals. “We needed to be around 200 (team points) or less to move on, and I see we’re over 300,” said Coach Brad Penney as he added up finish places.

It was no better for the girls, as Zoë Stuber, who had her season PR on the ugly Mt. Dora course last year, got bogged down on this year’s softer, more rugged configuration for a 27:05 finish. “It’s the same course,” she said. “It’s just in different order, but worse.” Lauren Bartholemy had her best finish of the season, place-wise, coming in two minutes after Stuber to finish second for the Lady Sharks in 29:22. Megan Stuber coasted in at 29:53, two minutes slower than last year, and tough little Caitlin Goss finished in 30:16, eight seconds behind her last year’s time.

Runners had to tackle a steep, dusty, vertical pitch behind the softball field, rolling in pebbles and chunky clay, before descending to take on a pair of asphalt hills in the middle part of the course. Then they did it again, before finally clawing their way out of the woods and onto the track for the home stretch. The gruesome Mt. Dora course makes everybody look bad, as girls’ overall winner Olivia Papa of Trinity Prep was held to 20:02; boys’ winner Jason McLeod of Circle Christian, finished in 17:16.

The powdery hill-climb made suffering runners choke; one finisher came into the chute gasping, “Water. Now!” After Cedar Key’s disappointing second-place finish at the County Championship two weeks ago, the Sharks had to retool to get fired up for districts. Coach Penney took the boys down to Lecanto for a meet, then put the whole team through time trials, making them run their fastest mile times to recover their confidence in their ability. “You make them run mile PRs and they feel faster,” he said. “They are faster, of course – faster than earlier in the season.”

Cedar Key is looking to the future already, planning for next year’s leadership roles. Boys’ team leader Joe Bishop graduates this year, as does middle finisher Josh Loyd, along with Jacob Crosby and Evan Lyons. Another dependable middle finisher, Thomas Benefield is gone, moving out of state. Coming back is Beckham, who led the Sharks in the last three races, to be a senior next year. Aaron Esposito, another tough runner, will also be a senior. Josh Lumley, the gritty fifth man, will be a junior. The girls bring everyone back, although Stuber and Caely Hibbits will be seniors after only their third year, due to academic acceleration.

Stuber plans to double her mileage, hoping to radically improve her time. “It’s my last year, and I think if I start doing 50 miles a week instead of 25, I could get down to the 22-minute range,” she said. Stuber’s PR is 23:09. “Anyway, I don’t want Megan (her younger sister and closest competitor) kicking my butt anymore. That should be a law of nature, that younger sisters can’t beat their elders.”

Cedar Key finishes:


Zoë Stuber: 27:05

Lauren Bartholemy: 29:22

Megan Stuber: 29:53

Caitlin Goss: 30:16

Caely Hibbits: 32:00

Sarah Bartholemy: 33:01

Megan Martin: 33:34


Frankie Beckham: 21:31

Joseph Bishop: 21:35

Josh Loyd: 21:44

Thomas Benefield: 22:21

Josh Lumley: 22:53

Aaron Esposito: 23:33

Jacob Crosby: 24:05