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The American Heritage School Boca/Delray cross country teams are having a solid season together and junior Tanya Pach said it is the bond they have cultivated during the summer.
The girls’ team finished third in the Palm Beach County Cross Country Invitational at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton with 88 points, just two points behind runner-up Spanish River. Park Vista took first in the girls’ competition with 70 points and Boca Raton junior Emma O’Day won the individual title with a time of 19:02.65.
Pach was the top finisher for the Stallions taking ninth overall with a time of 20:07.61.
Pach, 16, who lives in Wellington, said running cross country is not only fun but also therapeutic. She said she’ll put in above 30 miles a week on average with her teammates.
“It is like an escape,” she said. “It is an escape from all of your problems. It is painful for sure, but mentally it is a relief.
“I believe we have all come close as a team not only running-wise but became really good friends,” Pach said. “Our coaches have really helped us and put us all together.”
First-year cross country runner and ninth-grader Kishma Fleurigene (20:31.98) placed 13th overall. Fleurigene’s season best time of 19:54.70 came in the Palm Beach Central Open.
Fleurigene, 14, of West Palm Beach, also started off running over 25 minutes in her races and has cut around six minutes from those times.
“It surprised me a lot,” she said. “My coach knew that I had potential and I just needed to see it myself. I was really excited when I broke 20 (minutes). I am hoping to build up enough endurance for track season and go to state. I am pretty sure our team can make it to state.”
Mariana Fidele was 19th with a clocking of 20:57.62, while Ashley Silva (21:26.82, 23rd), and Savannah Blau (21:31.44, 24th) rounded out the top 5 for the Stallions.
Silva, 17, said she started off running 28 minutes for the 3.1-mile layout in her sophomore year and has seen that time drop in the past two years to a personal-best clocking of 21.09.
“I feel like it is the small things that count,” Silva, a senior and Delray Beach resident, said of her reduction in time. “I just make sure that every workout is all the way finished and when you have a sprint, you sprint the whole thing. You don’t stop until after you are finished.”
American Heritage School Boca/Delray coach Rafael Canabal is in his sixth year as coach at the school and this is his fourth year coaching cross country.
Canabal said he was pleased with the girls’ finish as they entered the county meet seeded third and nearly finished runner-up.
“The difference between second and third was four points so we were extremely pleased with their performance,” he said. “They have been working and training as a team and they are at this time a wolfpack on the hunt.
“They are seeing the benefits of their training and they are hungry for more,” he said. “They really wanted to win it yesterday, but we are ready for the start of the (FHSAA) state series coming up this week.”
American Heritage School Boca/Delray’s boys, without its top runner junior Matthew Hinds, finished 11th as a team with 327 points. Hinds’ top performance of 18:03 came in the Spanish River Invitational. Hinds was unable to run because he was on a school trip with the prelaw department at a mock trial.
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Sophomore Skyler Burrus led the Stallions’ boys with a time of 19:26.14 to finish 58th overall. Gio Garcia (19:40.96, 68th), Marcos Marrero (19:49.64, 72nd), Ethan Friedman (19:58.71, 74th), and Connor Pucci (20:41.47, 89th) rounded out the top 5 for the squad.
Garcia has been running cross country for three years. The American Heritage School Boca/Delray eighth-grader said he started to “get into the sport” at the end of his sixth-grade year.
“I first started doing it because I knew some of the coaches and once I figured out that I was pretty good at it, I started training and was getting better,” said Garcia, 13, of Boynton Beach. “I learned to love it.
“It is so much fun,” he said. “Being a part of this team is probably the coolest thing I have ever done. We travel across Florida and we just run. It is such a fun thing…runners share each other’s pain. While they are running you don’t see them smiling that much, but when you finally finish the race, that’s when you start smiling.”
Canabal said this year’s team has flourished this season because everyone was inside their homes last year due to COVID-19.
“They didn’t have the outlet to go out and explore,” he said. “They came in this year and they were inspirational. I got two or three new runners who had never run before. They played soccer and other sports. The first thing they told me after the first race was, ‘I didn’t think I would love it this much.’ It has taken off from there.”