Thirteen boy’s cross country teams competed in the Patriot Invitational this past Saturday. West Florida Tech led all teams with a convincing 17:36 team average (41 points) for a first place finish. The Patriots took second with a team time of 18:08 (85 points). Behind them were Pine Forest High School (18:45, 126), Gulf Breeze High School (18:49, 132), Pensacola Catholic High School (19:00, 153), Pensacola Christian Academy (19:23, 175), Pensacola High School (19:25, 188), Washington High School (19:31, 193), Choctaw High School 19:31, 194), TR Miller High School (20:02, 232), Flomaton High School (20:15, 245), Tate High School 21:15, 330), East Hill (27:20, 392).

The Patriot boys team returned five of seven experienced runners from last season’s varsity (squad) after the graduation of lead runner Andrew Parrish (16:40) and Andrew Payne (17:15). Senior four year runners Nathan Andreo (16:41), Logan Brabham (16:59), Jacob Hartley (17:21), and Jacob Salter (18:07) have returned to lead the Patriots. They are the current front runners this season and will help challenge the rest of the runners to improve their practice and race techniques. It’s been difficult choosing who the team captains will be this season because each has shown leadership skills at leading warm up runs and drills in practice each day as well as providing the younger runners role models to follow in prepping for races. Each provides valuable coaching and leadership skills to the newer runners especially since the coach can’t monitor all 29 runners at the same time when the team is stretched out on UWF hills and trails for 2 to 3 miles. This is the largest and most together group of seniors I’ve coached in 12 years. They have made excellent role models for the younger runners to look up to and a joy to coach. It’s like having 4 or 5 other coaches out there as being the coach’s eyes and ears beyond his line of sight.

Behind these lead runners are rising seniors Antonio Brooks (18:05), Ty Baker (18:33); Juniors Logan Franklin (17:46), Nolan Murray (18:52), Joshua Welty (19:09), and rising Sophomore Casey Delong (19:15). These guys all run together at practice in order to pack run in the races. They motivate and encourage one another to keep up at practice whether we’re doing a 75 minute run, hill repeats, speed work, etc. The younger runners are also being grouped and trained to run together in the same way. Even though WF Tech seemed to dominate the top 15 places at the Patriot Invitational… this race pack technique helped the Patriots earn a 2nd place finish ahead of the remaining teams. We’ll continue to train this way in order to attempt to win the 3A District 1 Championship at Pace on Oct. 24 and place 5th or 6th at the 3A Region 1 Championship in Lake City on Oct. 31. The boys know what to expect in the Regional meet since competing there last season and earning a 6th place team finish and competing at the State Championship last season.

Heading up a very competitive junior varsity team is another four-year returning runner Andrew Hand (17:39) who is working back into the varsity team after being out of town most of the summer. Behind him is a new sophomore runner Chase Manning (19:43) who is showing some promise at earning a spot on varsity before the end of the season. The top seven varsity positions are competitive from week to week which means they have to work hard to keep their varsity position.  Behind these two are senior runners Daniel Castillo (19:10), Christian Johannemann (19:45), Sophomores Logan Laird (SO, 21:11) and Morgan Davis (21:59), and Junior Chase Andrew (23:22).  

There are many new faces on the team and each has already showed much promise for the Patriot Boys cross country team in years to come. They are Junior Austin O’Gara (25:22) sophomores Josh Allen (22:15), Jason Barlow (22:06), Channing Everett (22:17), and Freshmen runners Drake Lloyd (21:12), Tristan Lawson (21:57), Garrett Barnes (23:14), Chase Lastinger (25:24), Grant Peaden (26;40), Crae Andrew (27:56), and David Carlin and Brandon Meadows who are currently recovering from injury.

The Patriots will be in the competitive mix at the end of the season when they put it all on the line at the district and regional championship to earn another trip to state. That’s their goal for the 2015 season and they know it will be a tough and challenging road to get there. The 2014 team was the fastest team I’ve coached in 12 years with a top 5 team average of 16:59. This team has the potential to be even faster. They know the other teams in our district and region will be battling for the same goals. Good luck to all teams, runners, coaches, and their families involved in the 2015 Cross Country season.