NOTE: Bolles and Episcopal postponed their scheduled football game Tuesday night, after the Times-Union's press time. See more information on football postponements due to Hurricane Ian here.
Poised near the heart of a tight-knit lead pack, Ponte Vedra's Lindy White watched and waited.
"When it was 800 meters [to go], I felt that was the right time," she said.
White broke free from a half-dozen contenders and raced to the individual title for the girls elite race at Saturday night's Katie Caples Invitational, as the annual tradition continued along the St. Johns River at Bishop Kenny.
The event, traditionally among the biggest nights on Jacksonville's cross country calendar, brought the Sharks' second individual girls title in five years, after Claire Moritz won the race in 2017.
White stayed patient, remaining near the front of a pack with top runners from around Florida: Ava Wyant from Master's Academy, Emma Hencock from St. Brendan, Annabella Cardona from Miami Braddock, Kate Drummond from Gainesville Buchholz, Alyson Johnson from Creekside and Katelyn Lawrence from St. Augustine among them.
She began to pull clear at the third and final stretch along the St. Johns River, crossing in 18:29 for the second-fastest time of her career.
Her performance also helped the Sharks to the team title, tying on points with Buchholz at 86. Daisy Ross and Sofia Bushkell broke 19:30 for the Sharks, followed by Hilaree Vega and Amelia Tackling under 20:15.
"It's always such a strong field," White said.
In the boys' race, Gainesville Buchholz senior Emerson Miller maintained a steady tempo throughout, pulling away on his way to a winning time of 15:33. For Miller, who finished ninth in last year's race, the run marked his fastest time achieved in Florida high school competition.
The boys team championship, meanwhile, went to a Creekside team that continues to show its depth. Hudson Finocchio (16:03), Jack Dravo (16:09), Tanner Simonds (16:11) and Jack Zurn (16:27) placed among the top 10 individuals, giving the Knights 47 points to top Bolles and Buchholz.
Episcopal's Lucrezia Gowdy won the girls varsity race in 20:05, and Wolfson's Andrew Marello captured the boys varsity title in 17:07.
North of the state line, meanwhile, Fleming Island's Graham Myers set the fastest area time this year and the third-fastest in 2022 for a Florida high schooler. The junior ran 15:27.10 to place eighth at the Wingfoot XC Classic in Cartersville, Ga., best known in Jacksonville as the hometown of Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Bolles, Episcopal renew rivalry
Trading Friday night lights for Wednesday afternoon skies: As Hurricane Ian nears the Sunshine State, Bolles and Episcopal are planning to renew their rivalry on a day that doesn't exactly have football written all over it.
The private schools, now drawn together in District 1-2S, plan to face off at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Episcopal's Jangro Stadium, the teams' first football meeting since Nov. 9, 2012. Bolles and Episcopal agreed to move the kickoff up to Wednesday in an effort to beat the hurricane. The National Hurricane Center Tuesday announced that Ian could dump more than 10 inches of rain over Northeast Florida and may trigger "significant, prolonged river flooding" across the region.
Bolles (2-3) enters in unfamiliar territory, although not necessarily panic mode considering the quality of their opposition in the past three weeks — two reigning state champions and a 10-0 team from 2021. Whatever the foes, the Bulldogs hadn't incurred three consecutive losses since 1988.
Bolles has totally dominated the series over the decades, but Episcopal (4-0) enters with cause for confidence. Quarterback Joe Wiesner is coming off the most productive game of his career, a five-TD night in Friday's win over North Florida Educational Institute.
The planned Wednesday game is an uncommon option for hurricane-affected teams, most of which have elected to push their games back. Among schools to set rescheduled dates by press time Tuesday, Tocoi Creek will play at Palatka at 7 p.m. Monday, and Columbia and Orange Park will face off on their mutual bye at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at Ridgeview.
FHSAA's first football rankings: Where do Northeast Florida teams rank?
Peak performers: Week 5 stars from Episcopal, Middleburg, Nease, more
Hornets' defense packs a sting
Three pick-sixes. One night. That's the swarm before the storm.
Yulee's defense turned the gridiron into its track meet, running back three interceptions for touchdowns to cruise 49-6 Port St. Lucie Tradition Prep in a rare Monday night football contest postponed from Sept. 17.
FIU commit Landon Hale not only tallied a pick-six but also blocked a punt, while Amauri Goff and Jordan Austin also took interceptions all the way back for the Hornets (3-1). Quarterback Chris Turner, headed for Valdosta State, threw two touchdown passes to Zack Drawdy (UConn) and one to Josiah Evans.
Hurricane Ian is threatening to turn Week 6 upside down, but Week 5 produced enough gridiron highlights to last for a while:
* University Christian athlete Orel Gray might want to play every game in Dillard, Ga., a drive of some seven hours to near the North Carolina border.
In Friday's 49-13 victory, Gray racked up a staggering 473 all-purpose yards: 285 rushing, 71 receiving and 117 on returns, plus three touchdowns on offense. He's gained more than 4,000 all-purpose yards for his UC career.
* It's a rare day when a high school quarterback throws for 400 yards — and rarer still when it's not enough for a win. Oakleaf lost 27-23 at Chiles despite a career-high 403 yards from Drew Ammon (30 of 43, two touchdowns), who connected with Taylor Bradshaw 10 times for 206 yards.
* Special teams proved extra special last week for several Northeast Florida teams. Creekside's Andrew Kelley and Bruno Alves both returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Mandarin; Englewood tallied a pair of punt return scores from Julio Valcarcel and Tarris Townsend; and for Palatka, Chavaris Dumas added an 88-yard return to add to his sensational season.
Also celebrating special teams: Raines. Not only did Kenton Kirkland recover a muffed punt by Ocala Trinity Catholic, but Jaylen Clark took a fourth-quarter fake punt to the end zone for the game-winner in a 20-17 triumph.
Week 5 football rewind: White, BK, Englewood, Palatka among winners
Huge week for Cam Smiths (yes, plural)
The top performance of the week for a Cam Smith in Northeast Florida? It's a toss-up.
Running backs for Baker County and Nease had fans seeing double as they checked the weekly football stat sheet, thanks to Week 5 games to remember on the high school gridiron.
Baker County senior Cam Smith rushed for touchdowns of 57 and 60 yards to spark the Wildcats' offense in a 34-14 victory over Viera, as the ground game helped bring victory in head coach Kevin Mays' trip to his former school on the Space Coast.
Then, Nease's own Cam Smith, a junior who had never previously gained more than 37 rushing yards, exploded for 160 in the Panthers' 27-12 win at Orange Park.
Away from the gridiron, there's Ponte Vedra golfer Camden Smith, all season long among the lowest scorers in Northeast Florida. This week, he helped the Sharks to wins at the Titan Invite and the Fletcher Invitational in Atlantic Beach.
Golden Eagles' Lawrence picks USF
Is Clay County becoming the First Coast's epicenter for offensive linemen? It's possible.
Fleming Island offensive tackle T.J. Lawrence announced his commitment Sunday to USF football, becoming the third county O-lineman to commit to a Football Bowl Subdivision program in the recruiting class of 2023.
The 6-5, 285-pound Lawrence converted to the offensive line over the spring from tight end, and he's already played a part in a superb start for the Golden Eagles. Fleming Island is averaging 422.5 yards per game, led by Florida State commit Samuel Singleton (58 carries, 411 yards) and sophomore quarterback Cibastian Broughton (32 of 53, 580 yards).
Already committed are Oakleaf's Kyland Armstrong, who selected Wake Forest, and Orange Park's Roderick Kearney, who committed to Florida State.
Bolles' Ryan, Candelino choose Vols
Two of the First Coast's fastest distance runners are going from the top of the cross country standings to Rocky Top.
On Thursday, Bolles senior distance runner Aidan Ryan committed to Tennessee for men's cross country and track, and Bolles senior Jillian Candelino selected the Vols' girls distance squad on the same day.
Both Ryan and Candelino own multiple state championships. Ryan won the Class 2A track titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 during the spring, and he holds a personal best of 15:35 in cross country.
Candelino, the Times-Union's back-to-back athlete of the year in girls cross country, currently ranks second in Florida with a 17:45 at the Bale-N-Trail Original. She won the Class 2A individual title last fall while helping the Bulldogs to the team championship,
Hurricane Ian permitting, the Bolles girls are scheduled to travel to New York to compete in Saturday's Manhattan Invitational, while the Alexander/Asics Invitational is on deck for the boys in Fairburn, Ga.
Fletcher divers go 1-2 at FSPA meet
Maybe they didn't make a big splash over the weekend. After all, in elite diving, a small splash is almost the name of the game.
Max Shaver (427.20) and Travis Hardy (333.95) wrapped up a 1-2 finish for Fletcher's divers at Saturday's Florida Swimming Pool Association Invitational in Stuart, bringing home aquatic prizes from the Treasure Coast.
Providence's Haley Aschenbrenner scored 363.25 points for second place in girls diving.
In the overall point tally, Bolles captured first place in the boys standings while taking third place on the girls side of the meet behind Montverde Academy and Oviedo. It's the latest success for the Bolles swimming program, which has won both the boys and girls Florida High School Athletic Association titles for 31 consecutive years.
Bears net milestones in tourney
The top prize got away from Bartram Trail volleyball this weekend. The milestones didn't.
The Bears had a week to remember at the two-day, six-team Elise Bush Invitational inside the Davis Gym, held in honor of the former Bolles volleyball coach who led the Bulldogs for three decades and won nearly 700 games.
Jupiter topped Bartram Trail in the championship match, after the Bears had swept the Warriors in the preliminary round.
Senior outside hitter Jenna Otts continued her red-hot attacking streak to climb to 849 career kills, second on the school's all-time list behind Lexi Henriott's 891 from 2009-12. She also leads the Bears all-time in hitting attempts with 1,934.
Head coach Lainey Kekic also achieved her 100th victory with the Bears.
Lakeland, Winter Haven hold six finals
Call it the Polk County Six-Pack.
The FHSAA announced Friday that the RP Funding Center in Lakeland will hold the state championships for both girls and boys weightlifting, while girls and boys volleyball finals are on the way to Polk State College's Winter Haven Campus.
Boys and girls basketball, meanwhile, will also remain at the RP Funding Center, which has been the sport's home since 1996. This year's girls finals will be Feb. 22-25, followed by the boys finals on March 1-4.
This fall's girls volleyball finals in Lakeland are now scheduled for Nov. 11-12, the latest step in the journey for one of the state's most itinerant sports.
Since departing Kissimmee after the 2014 season, the FHSAA has held girls volleyball championships in Orlando at UCF, in Ocala at West Port High School, in Jacksonville at UNF Arena, and for the last four years at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers.
The building, then known as the Lakeland Center, previously served as volleyball host from 2002 to 2010, including a Class 4A title for Nease in 2008.
Weightlifting, held last season in Port St. Joe, will take place Feb. 17-18 for girls and April 14-15 for boys.
The agreements remain in place through 2025.
Around the area
Bolles' Seth Tolentino committed to Texas A&M for men's swimming. ... Bartram Trail attacker Ryann Frechette committed to Florida women's lacrosse. ... Bartram Trail senior attacker Adri Ferrara committed to Newberry College women's lacrosse. ... Ponte Vedra's Lily Mosser committed to South Florida women's lacrosse. ... Clay junior libero Aubri Martin surpassed 1,000 career digs in volleyball. ... Mandarin's Gavin Nelson ran 16:19 to lead the Mustangs to the boys cross country team championship at the Tohopekaliga Invitational in Kissimmee. ... Paxon's Cameron Watson set a school record in the boys 100-yard backstroke. ... Union County's Daylyn Diston set a school record with a 105-yard interception touchdown against Newberry. ... Dozens of Middleburg alumni attended Saturday's volleyball victories over Yulee and Nease in a celebration for longtime head coach Carrie Prewitt, who is planning to retire after the season. ... The FHSAA authorized a waiver to permit football practice this Sunday, Oct. 2, due to Hurricane Ian. ... Bolles swimming coach Peter Verhoef has been selected as USA Swimming's head coach for its girls national select camp from Oct. 6-9 in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Bolles Sharks Andrew Kravchenko and Michael Mullen were chosen for the boys camp Oct. 13-16.
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: First Coast Varsity Weekly: Cross country win for Sharks' Lindy White