The Lady Conchs’ fourth place team poses with their hardware with head coach Keara McGraw. From left: Violet Jangraw, Laira Anaya, Briana Nodal, Mia Steer, McGraw, Zoe

Cross country district races are complete and Keys runners performed very well, with many moving on to regionals. 

Marathon ran at Palmer Trinity School on Nov. 2 for the 1A District 8 championships. The Fins’ boys earned a district runner-up title and an automatic entry into regionals. Vance Bursa was the first Dolphin, finishing in 16:52 and earning a silver medal for district. Tony Bursa was fifth overall and second for his team, crossing the line in 17:55. Senior Mason Buxton also cracked the top 10, finishing in ninth place overall and third for Marathon. Jakub Bursa, Adrien Holdinga, Dillon Shelar and Allan Taylor also counted toward the Fins’ total and will move on in their quest for their ninth consecutive state appearance as a team. 

They will need to get through some stiff regional competition first, though. For the 1A Dolphins, that means racing against the top 16 teams, four from each district, in South Florida. 

“Our region is racing at Spanish River, which is the FAU home course. It is known to be one of the faster courses in South Florida,” said coach Jim Murphy. “As long as it stays dry, it is going to be a very fast race.” 

In preparation for the challenge that awaits them on Thursday, Nov. 9, he said, “We have shifted our workouts to prepare for the faster course and tougher teams. It’s been a speed work, recovery, speed work cycle for the last few weeks in preparation for this postseason. The kids have bought in and have been working hard to prepare. I’m excited to see how we end up on Thursday and if we can make another run at states.” 

The girls team was third overall, qualifying them for the next round of racing. Ella Dunn was the first Fin to cross the line in 22:49, which was fast enough to take the number 10 spot in the district. Maeve Merryman was next in 23:10, and Mikkel Ross, Rain Banks, Sara Robinson, Madelyn Thornton and Rebecca Merryman also contributed to the team scoring. 

2A Key West and Coral Shores competed on Nov. 1 at Larry and Penny Thompson Park in Miami. The Lady Conchs buckled down and took fourth place, qualifying the entire team for regionals. Caylaa Makimaa and Naima Thomas both finished with personal best times and top-15 finishes, helping spur the team’s success. Makimaa crossed the finish line third overall in 20:00, with Thomas earning 12th in 21:44. Laira Anaya, Violet Jangraw, Briana Nodal, Ava Gonzalez and Mia Steer all contributed to the scoring and will move on to the next race. 

Key West’s boys finished in ninth place overall, which did not qualify the team for regionals, but the girls won’t be alone at the race, as Colbin Hill and Jerven Louis finished fast enough to qualify as individuals. Hill ran an 18:34, while Louis finished in 19:37. Early in the season, one of the team’s goals was to make it to regionals this season. With that checked off, the focus is now to get to Tallahassee.

Coral Shores’ young teams did not qualify for regionals this season, but Kai Guth made it as an individual runner, finishing first for her team in 24:49. Jenna Mandozzi finished second for the Lady ‘Canes. Nathaniel Shugarman was first for the boys, finishing in 20:48, while teammate Jamie Cary was second. Both athletes are just sophomores. 

Guth will make the trip to Boca for the regional race with first year coach Lyndie Meyers, who said she could not be prouder of her entire team. Their hard work, as well as that of the boys, has paid off with marked improvement as the season went on, and Meyers has plans in the works to include some middle school athletes next year to keep strengthening the Hurricane program.
For 2A Coral Shores and Key West, their race will be at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton on Nov. 9. The top eight teams plus the top four individuals not included in a qualifying team in each region will make the trip to Tallahassee for the state championships later this month.

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.