By Jeff Odom
The Freedom girls cross country team finished as the Class 4A-District 6 runner-up for the second straight year Nov. 1 at Al Lopez Park in Tampa.
The Patriots captured second place in record fashion as six of the seven runners set personal records to finish with 64 points, 49 off Plant’s perfect score. Meet host Wharton came within one point of Freedom to finish third.
“I knew Wharton would be coming hard and they had us in the virtual meet at districts in third, so I knew it would be tight,” said Patriots coach Dwight Smith. “I know when we get to regionals, it will be a little more spread out. As far as my team’s performance, I’m proud of them.”
Freedom was paced by Annie Tedesco (19 minutes 58 seconds), who finished eighth. Teammates Lauren Arfaras (20:14) and Alex Mitchell (20:15) placed 9th and 10th, respectively.
Mitchell, a senior, said it felt great to move on to regionals and inch closer to the team’s goal of reaching states in consecutive years.
“It feels good to finish second,” Mitchell said. “Plant’s a really good team, and we just tried our best and competed. Can’t really do anything else.”
Tedesco, who spent most of the first lap in the top three before the Panthers zipped by, added she didn’t know where the squad had placed initially, but was excited when she found out.
“We’re trying to get second place at regionals too, that’s what we’re planning on,” Tedesco said.
Smith said his Patriots are peaking at the right time.
“I think we’re running better than we did last year at this time, especially on the back end,” Smith said. “My No. 4 and 5 runners ran pretty good. They all ran really well, (Mitchell) beating Wharton’s No. 2 (Kallie Golicher) to the line pretty much sealed our second-place finish. I told the girls at our team dinner the other night that this is the best cross country team I’ve had since getting to Freedom.”
For Wharton, Mariah Henderson (19:24) finished seventh and Golicher (20:15.10) was denied a top 10 spot by a footstep.
On the boys side, the Patriots placed third with 83 points behind Plant and Bloomingdale, respectively.
Freedom’s highest finisher, Adam Urbaniak (16:53.46), finished ninth, while teammate Brandon Edwards (18:01.76) crossed the line in 13th.
Wharton took fourth with 114 points. Taylor Young (18:20.80) was 16th and Bernie Ayala Turcios (18:47.19) was 21st.
Both teams from Freedom and Wharton will compete in the regional meet at McIntosh Middle in Sarasota Nov. 10 starting at 9 a.m.