By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay High School cross-country runner Kelsi Ogilvie overcame a wet track and a football game breathing down everyone’s neck Saturday morning to take the first big area cross country event of the season, the Lemon Bay Invitational.
The Manta Rays were able to put three runners in the top four positions. However, there was a dramatic drop-off from there which prevented them from winning the team title, finishing third.
For the boys, North Port battled the race with Lely before the Trojans prevailed by two points with the Bobcats’ Luis Dietrich finishing second individually. North Port’s girls were second behind Riverview.
Ogilvie struggled through a mucky track to be the only girl to record a sub-20-minute time. She mostly ran her own race, with nobody really threatening her.
“It was tough. I was alone all the time. I know I had to go fast because there were other girls who could catch up with me,” Ogilvie said. “There were huge puddles in the track that you just had to plow through. It was a lot of splashing, but that was the course.”
Maddison Welch finished third, but had to overcome a bum knee and her demons in the middle part of the course, which has been her bugaboo.
“I felt good and loose and the knee felt great. I’ve always had an issue with the second mile. Things started hurting and I beat myself down, thinking everything is wrong,” Welch said. “Then I get my second wind and my finishing kick.”
Kristen Robinson was fourth, but the Manta Rays got nobody close after that, dropping them to third at 107 points behind Riverview (48) and North Port (67).
The Bobcats put the Boethig twins, Kaley and Lindsay in sixth and seventh place, respectively, and their five scoring runners placed in the top 26. All Riverview’s runners were inside the top 25.
“With the conditions, I’m pleased with their finish. You can’t control the weather. Going into next week we’ll do more off-road stuff and get them used to all weather conditions,” said North Port girls coach Jennifer Reed.
Port Charlotte’s Isabella Reyes led the Pirates with a 25th place finish, which as a team finished ninth.
For the boys, Dietrick finished behind only Alan Romero of Sarasota Military Academy.
“I got to kicking it toward the end. I passed two runners and tried to win, but he had me beat,” Dietrich said. “It was a good race. I’m happy with it.”
Coach Phu Nguyen thought his team should have won, but with his team a little banged up and a top runner leaving the squad, he ended up two points shy of Lely, which had two runners in the top four and three in the top 10.
“We had runners who didn’t run to their full potential. Everyone has a bad race sometimes, so we’ll come back next week,” said Nguyen, who saw Kevin Kapadia take fifth, Evan Weisberger 11th and Dillon Garrett 14th.
Port Charlotte only fielded three runners, but all had respectable finishes, with Michael Balseca in 16th. But it could’ve been better if they had been a little slower and steadier,
“We came out a little too fast. We carried to first turn too hard and because we went out so hard in the first half-mile, the final mile was very painful for them and timewise wasn’t what we wanted,” said coach Ray Chumbley.
Lemon Bay’s boys finished 10th, with Henry Finck being the top finisher, in 17th.