Records fall, as does leader of the pack, in wild night at Fort Myers Invitational

John Rinkenbaugh
Special to The News-Press

Bernardo Barnhart seized on a miscue and surprisingly good weather to score the biggest win of his career Saturday night at the 42nd annual Fort Myers Invitational.

Threatening skies forced junior varsity and varsity teams to race together with the boys going off first and the Palmetto Ridge junior sitting in the midst of a three-way battle just a half mile into the race.

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Barnhart stalked race favorite Kolton Pickard of Estero and Colsen Palmer of Fort Myers through two miles when craziness happened.

An unknown girls team was cutting across the wooded section of the course and one of them clipped the Estero star who suffered an injury to his right hamstring.

Barnhart pounced and pulled away for the win demolishing Pickard’s old meet record by more than a minute and taking the course record as well in 15:47. Palmer also dipped under the old records finishing seven seconds back.

“I heard Colsen coming back behind me and I thought I just gotta win it,” Barnhart said.  Barnhart, a junior, said he didn’t know Pickard had been clipped and injured.

The Naples boys team did a good job getting out fast in the large field and holding their position, led by Isiah Barajas who finished sixth, to take the team win just six points ahead of Fort Myers.

Bernardo Barnhart of Palmetto Ridge wins the  42nd Annual Fort Myers High XC Invitational at Kelly Fields in Fort Myers on Saturday September 11, 2021. His time was 15:47. Naples High School was the team winner.

Naples head coach Mary Beth Watkins was surprised by the win and said the schedule change may have helped.

“It maybe got our adrenaline going I don’t know, it certainly didn’t hurt us by the way we raced,” Watkins said.

The early start time caught girl’s winner Ava Povich at the dinner table.  Her coach called to let her know her race had been moved up an hour.

Povich said, “I felt pretty decent but my stomach was definitely feeling the food I was eating.”

Ava Povich of Evangelical Christian School leads the 42nd Annual Fort Myers High XC Invitational at Kelly Fields in Fort Myers on Saturday September 11, 2021. She won with a time of 18:50.  Our Lady of Lourdes Academy was the team winner.

The ECS junior was out front early also setting both a meet and course record, aided perhaps by a boy’s team that arrived late and was allowed to run with the girls.  Povich paced off those boys beating all but two in running 18:50.   

Lourdes Academy of Miami captured the girls' title by a wide margin with Naples finishing third just ahead of Bishop Verot.

“Our girls love getting to race at night and the earlier start time helped get them pumped up,” said Naples head coach Rich Haralson.

One question looming as the cross country season moves forward is the seriousness Pickard’s injury.  The Estero star left the course with an ice bag strapped to his right hamstring.

Jeff Pickard, his father, said Kolton was looking forward to racing in North Port next week.

The boys start the  42nd Annual Fort Myers High XC Invitational at Kelly Fields in Fort Myers on Saturday September 11, 2021. Naples High School was the overall boys winner.

Boys Team Results

1. Naples 77, 2. Fort Myers 83, 3. Palmetto Ridge 127, 4. Ida Baker 145, 5. Cape Coral 173

Boys Individual Results

1. Bernardo Barnhart, Palmetto Ridge 15:47; 2. Colsen Palmer, Fort Myers 15:54; 3. Tristan McWilliam, Out of Door Academy 16:01; 4. Hayden Tank, SFCA 16:10; 5. Evan Meyer, Lehigh 16:13; 6. Isiah Barajas, Naples 16:18; 7. William Canales, Cape Coral 16:28; 8. Andrew McLendon, Naples 16:30; 9. Matthew Speruta, Ida Baker 16:39; 10. Joseph Koraya, Fort Myers 16:40; 11. Nehki Perry, North Fort Myers 16:40; 12. Declan Ziomek, Ida Baker 16:44; 13. Jack Marshall, Naples 16:46; 14. Jordan Velasquez, Palmetto Ridge 16:47; 15. Chris Amador, Palmetto Ridge 16:47

The girls take off during the  42nd Annual Fort Myers High XC Invitational at Kelly Fields in Fort Myers on Saturday September 11, 2021.

Girls Team Results

1. Lourdes 53, 2. Naples 108, 3. Bishop Verot 115, 4. Estero 162, 5. Fort Myers 169

Girls Individual Results

1. Ava Povich, ECS 18:50; 2. Olivia Fraga, Lourdes 19:10; 3. Julianna Corville, Venice 19:25; 4. Johanna Diez, Lourdes 19:37; 5. Mackenzie De Lisle, Bishop Verot 19:39; 6. Gabriella Santucci, Canterbury 19:44; 7.       Gianna Del Pizzo, Lehigh 19:48; 8. Olivia Rodriguez, Lourdes 19:50; 9.       Amelia Jones, Naples 19:51; 10. Tara Watkins, Naples 19:52; 11. Allison Bratton, South Fort Myers 10:54; 12. Olivia Olney, Fort Myers 19:57; 13.   Sonia Lountchenko, Palmetto Ridge 20:01; 14. Sofia Torres, South Fort Myers 20:01; 15. Julia Reitz, Bishop Verot, 20:01