Gables Cross Country Dominates Districts 2022-2023


Courtesy of Talah Pharaon

The girls cross country team poses with their District Runner-Up trophy.

Taking the first pivotal step to make it to the state championship, the Coral Gables Senior High cross country team competed at the Florida High School Athletic Association’s 4A District Eight race, held at Larry and Penny Thompson Park. After months of daily practice and weekly meets, the teams ran against other high schools in District Eight on Oct. 19, 2o22 with the hopes of advancing to regionals.

The athletes had prepared for this event since August with consistent practice and multiple meets on various courses. Showing great success on any terrain in seven previous races, runners hoped to set new personal records for districts.

To run at districts, athletes were required to be in the team’s top ten finishers at the previous Junior Orange Bowl Invitational. For both the boys and girls teams, the top ten consisted of nine runners from the varsity team and the fastest junior varsity runner from each group. But, what made this race especially important for these runners was the need to be in the top seven athletes of the team. If they achieved this, they could move on to regionals; if not, the district race would be their last of the season. For the seniors on the team, this made the task increasingly daunting. The pressure was on.

Upon their arrival, the athletes enjoyed the cold front, basking in the sun and cracking jokes. However, once they settled, the frigid weather left many of the athletes shivering as they waited for their races to begin.

After an elongated warm-up in the rain and cold wind, the girls varsity team got hyped, ready to dominate districts and qualify for regionals. At the sound of the gun, the girls took off, adrenaline pumping, carefully avoiding slippery rocks and exposed branches. After a short 24 minutes, all five runners had crossed the line, racking up a total of 66 points for the team and catapulting them to second place, just behind G. Holmes Braddock High School.

“This being my senior year, I really wanted the team to do well at districts. The fact that we were able to run the way we did meant the world to me. My goal was to lead the team to a second place victory and I’m glad we were able to execute it,” senior Isabella Morales said.

The girls finished their race with some teary-eyed hugs from Coach Nelson and then prepared to cheer on the boys team.

The rain had stopped by the time the gunshot for the boys, but that did not lessen the challenge of navigating the slippery route of the infamous Larry and Penny Thompson Park. Making an impressive appearance at the midway point, the top five runners stayed together, keeping their pace and pushing each other along. Freshman Luis Rodriguez led the pack to the finish with a time of 17:49, ending in 17th place overall. With an average of 18:41 for 5000 meters, the boys team totaled 137 points, just one point behind their greatest rival, Miami Coral Park High School. But, the boys’ fifth-place finish put them well in the clear to advance to regionals.

This race meant a lot to me because it was the first step to making it to my first state championship, but more importantly it meant a lot to our team because we finally got a chance to show all the hard work we have put in and we ran a race that really mattered. Also, this was the last race at Larry and Penny for our seniors so it was important to us that we did well,

— junior Anthony Fotso

After some congratulations and regrouping at the tents, the team made their way to the award ceremony. Here, medals were given to the top 15 individuals to cross the finish line, starting with the girls. Gables was awarded ninth and tenth place; senior Isabella Morales led the team with a time of 20:59. The team awards followed this. With growing anticipation, the girls team finally heard their school announced as the District Runner-Up.

The bus ride home was spirited with fulfilled athletes ready for regionals. The Cavaliers ended the night by singing the Alma Mater as the bus rolled up to the school, and they all filed out to head home.

“The season was so much fun and an overall amazing experience. It was so memorable and I’m going to miss it when it’s over. I loved doing the practice and the meets and everyone on the team was so kind and welcoming,” freshman Yara Korse said.

In just a few days, the Gables cross country team will travel to Spanish River High School to compete at regionals. Coaches and athletes alike expect every runner will hit new personal records. Once there, the athletes will have to be on their A-game as regionals is the final deciding factor in their quest to qualify for states.

Though district performances are crucial to the season and to the overall performance of the runners, the Gables cross country team cannot rest; the athletes must now resume their intense training so they can rock it at regionals.