Lely cross country coach Mark McGarity wasn’t sure if the Trojans would qualify one team for the state meet this year, let alone both.

But the Trojans really got to work late in the year, and that hard work paid off at the regional meet last Friday in Lakeland. Lely finished third in the girls meet and fourth in the boys race, qualifying both for the Class 2A state meet in Tallahassee tomorrow.

“We are elated to be where we are,” McGarity said. “We lost three weeks of workouts to the hurricane. I told these kids a couple weeks ago if they wanted to go to states, they’d have to buckle down for two weeks and focus. They surprised me...heck, I think they even surprised themselves with how well they did. I’m very proud and excited about what they’ve accomplished.”

Sophomore Ryenn Hart led the girls with a seventh-place finish at the regional race, with senior Ryann Leaman taking 16th. Other Lely standouts included senior Ella Kerchner (25th), freshman Ellie Poling (31st) and sophomore Sarah Nemeth (34th).

“Coming into the season, we knew Ryenn would be our top runner,” McGarity said. “But the other four have really picked it up, and that’s why we did so well at the regional meet.”

Junior Anthony Alvarez led the Lely boys with his ninth-place finish, with fellow junior Michael Poling taking 24th.

McGarity said newcomers to the team like sophomore Quentin Warren (30th), junior Ian Rivera-Garcia (32nd) and Jose Lopez (38th) have been key additions. Their improvement throughout the year made a big impact during the postseason races.

“We had a whole new crew that came out for cross country this season, and what they’ve done for us has been quite a shocker,” he said. “Those kids have really stepped us and given us the depth we needed.”

McGarity said the main goal this season was to reach the state meet. Now the Trojans can have a little fun.

“Anything these kids do at the state meet will be a bonus,” he said. “Let’s go out there, run our best race and see what happens.”