Marathon’s senior trio of Jakub Bursa, left, Mason Buxton and Dillon Shelar will head to Palmer Trinity on Thursday, Nov. 2 to begin their final postseason racing campaign. BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly

With just days before districts, Marathon and Coral Shores headed to Miami for one last regular-season race. Both teams ran at Larry and Penny Thompson Park in Miami at the Junior Orange Bowl Invitational and Open 5K race. Coral Shores ran the open and Marathon received the coveted invite to a race with some of the fastest competition in the area. 

Both the girls and boys Coral Shores teams are young, with just one senior between the two squads. But what the teams lack in experience, they more than compensate for in effort. Both groups have shown steady improvement throughout the season. The top finisher for the boys team last week was sophomore Nathaniel Shugarman, who crossed the finish line in 21:17. Connor Daniels clocked in at 21:43, followed by Sean Andrews in 22:37. Lochlain James (22:53), Tristan Sanchez (23:43), Kellan Bourbeau (24:00), Willy Valdez (24:32) and Alex Perez (27:07) will also represent the Hurricanes at districts.

Coral Shores junior Kai Guth took the top spot for the Hurricanes’ girls team, finishing in 25:31. Second for Coral Shores was Jenna Mandozzi in 28:19. Saige Ensign (29:24), Julia Rusch (29:31) and Hayden Teal (30:18), a trio of freshmen, will look to run their best race at districts and pick up some PRs for the young team.

Marathon’s girls and boys teams have enjoyed large numbers and stiff competition all season long. The postseason lineups have been finalized and athletes can now focus on the long road to Tallahassee. The Bursa brothers have earned the top three spots on Marathon’s district roster. Vance clocked in at 17:05, followed by Tony in 18:13 and Jakub in 19:12. Mason Buxton ran a 19:22, giving him the fourth spot for the Fins. Dillon Shelar (19:37), Allan Taylor (20:06), Caleb Shelar (20:40) and Adrien Holdinga (20:46) will also make the trip to districts. 

The girls team also has an official district lineup, starting with senior Mikkel Ross, who has consistently been first for Marathon all season. Ross ran the course in 23:11. Ella Dunn was next in 23:24. Maeve Merryman was third for Marathon, breaking the 24-minute mark with a 23:43 finish. Sara Robinson (24:56), Madelyn Thornton (25:24), Rebecca Merryman (25:34), Rilynn Richards (26:31), Rain Banks (27:47) and Shaina Robinson (28:27) will also compete for the Fins at districts.

Key West’s runners had a week packed with homecoming activities and opted to rest and recuperate for districts. 

With the regular season officially closed, it’s do-or-die time for runners. Athletes who do not qualify for regional competition at districts will see their seasons end at the finish line. The Conchs and ’Canes competed together at the FHSAA 2A meet at Larry and Penny Thompson Park on Nov. 1 (results not available at press time). 1A Marathon will take their marks on Nov. 2 at Palmer Trinity School.

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.