Even with scores of runners competing, Olivia Watt ended up running alone.
At the Marco Island Academy Rays’ Invitational cross country meet, held Saturday morning at Mackle Park, MIA senior Olivia crossed the electronic mat at the finish line two minutes and 26 seconds ahead of her closest competitor, a remarkable finish for a 5K race that took her 20 minutes and 55 seconds. She lapped some of the slower runners in the field of 74 high school girls as they circled the field and lake at Mackle Park.
Watt set the course record in the same event last year, and had hoped to beat that time, but had to settle for the convincing first place finish. The Manta Rays squad had been out on the track the week leading up to the meet, helping clear away branches and roof shingles blown over it during Hurricane Irma.
“There are still a ton of sticks,” said MIA senior runner Julie Wagner. “We tried to clean it up, but it’s hard to get rid of all of them.” The storm also impacted training for many of the teams, and caused the cancellation of two earlier meets, said MIA cross country coach and meet organizer Bruce Kretschmer.
Olivia Watt and her brother Jonathan, an MIA freshman who finished seventh out of 100 boys in his race, with a time of 18:36, trained in Ohio where they went to escape Irma. Everglades City School senior runner Ashley Goff reported that her team is still not allowed to run in Everglades City, due to massive amounts of debris and trees piled everywhere.
Overall, MIA finished second in the standings for the boys, third for the girls, and third overall, out of 18 high schools participating. MIA juniors Anna Chamberlin and Morgan Jones finished in the top 20 in their race, at 19 and 20 respectively.
Unlike the girls’ 5K, the boys’ race ended in a thrilling photo finish, with Dylan Reichenbacher of Mariner High School coming from behind at the last instant to edge Ralph Claude of Dunbar High School by one tenth of a second. Showing the sportsmanship and camaraderie associated with cross country, the two congratulated each other while still gasping for breath after crossing the finish line. Olivia Watt, having had time to cool down a little, handed cups of water to the next several finishers after her race.
Unlike a track meet, with multiple heats and events in a variety of categories, at a cross country meet, there is one race for the guys, and one for the girls. At Saturday’s event, there were male and female races for the high school runners, who cover 3.1 miles, or five kilometers – a 5K – and after those, male and female races for the middle school runners, who run a 3K.
After the high school 5Ks, and an unofficial 3K for those who didn’t choose to run a full 3.1 miles, the 16 middle schools participating had their turn, running a 3K distance. In all, said Kretschmer, 768 runners participated in the meet.
Seventh grader Kathryn Barry of MICMS was the top island finisher in the middle school girls’ race, finishing at number 23 with a time of 14:28. Behind Jonathan Watt, Kevin Barry and Camden Jones finished in the number 13 and 14 slots in the boys’ race.
For complete results from the meet, go online to elitetiming.net.