Big challenges ahead for Lely, Neumann runners

It is the big time for Lely High and St. John Neumann High as they compete in state cross country championships.

The Celtics boys and girls toe the line first in the Class A championship on Friday in Dade City.

The Trojans run the hills in Dade City on Saturday in the Class 3A championship.

Sophomore Victoria McCaffrey struggled with a strained arch and still came in fourth, just one second from third, in the Class A, Region three championship and freshman Stephanie Nicholl-Bolognese finished 15th.

In looking at their top six runners none are seniors.

Amy Bremmerman is a junior, along with sophomores McCaffrey, Armabel DelaRoma and freshmen Nicholl-Bolognese, Jaime Carbary and Carissa McGuiness.

The boys, too, are a young team, with Marco Island's Ben Gillenwaters the only senior of the top six runners.

In the regional finals, sophomores Andrew Nichols placed 15th and Taylor Peliska 17th. Junior Steve Evans was 20th, followed by sophomore Joey Farinacci in 45th, sophomore Danny Grasso 54th and Gillenwaters 66th.

Lely coach Mark McGarrity thinks his girls team has a chance of bettering last year's ninth-place finish at state.

Marco Island's Gina Young moves swiftly by runners in the Class 3A, Region 3 girls cross country race. Young helped the Lely girls finish fourth and qualify for the Class 3A state championship on Saturday.

Courtesy of Chris Black

Marco Island's Gina Young moves swiftly by runners in the Class 3A, Region 3 girls cross country race. Young helped the Lely girls finish fourth and qualify for the Class 3A state championship on Saturday.

"They'll be in the top half (of 24) and depending how well they click they could finish ahead of last year," McGarrity said.

In finishing fourth in the regional, they didn't have Marco Island's Sabrina Carrender, a junior, who sprained her ankle before the district meet.

"We might do a little better with Sabrina, but the other girls picked her up in the regional," McGarrity said.

The team is led by Marco Island's Amber Imm, a sophomore, who was named Athlete of the Week by the Naples Daily News for her fifth-place finish in the regional and for winning the district meet.

"It is great to see her efforts recognized, but she is only a sophomore," McGarrity said. Sometimes accolades are motivating, but they also can cause pressure. She just needs to run her own race and she will do fine."

Marco Island's Jade Dworkin and Gina Young also are in the top six runners.

Both juniors, McGarrity expect them to run well.

"Gina and Heather Chairez have really done a good job at the end of the season," McGarrity said. Also in the wings are Samantha Spinuzzi and Sarah Stacey.

"The boys did an outstanding job in making the state meet," McGarrity said.

The boys were seeded 10th in the regional, but ran to a sixth-place finish, the last qualifying spot for state.

"They have gotten better each week," he said. "Their effort brings the boys team to the state after missing for two years."

Maynard St. Cyr had a second good race, finishing 12th at the regional, bettering his 15th-place finish in the district and running 21 seconds faster in 17:31 for the three-mile race.

Marco Island's Stephen Buckley was 21st at the regional, followed by Brandon Fisher, Samuel Walker, Tito Serrata, Jordan Sorrenti of Marco Island and Daryl Townsend.

"Brandon Fisher keeps improving and we had five runners that broke the 19-minute mark," McGarrity said. "That may not be fast as a group, but it sets the tone to do better at state," McGarrity said.

"We will be up against some great competition and I know all the runners will give their best effort."

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