It was a big day for Celebration as Storm runners Jarad Falchook and Catalina Edwards won individual titles at the 2021 Orange Belt Conference (OBC) Cross Country Championships contested at St. Cloud High School on Wednesday afternoon.
Falchook, a senior, out-raced Harmony rival Joel Jean to the finish line in the 5K race – winning in a time of 16:24.88. “Heading into the race the only goal was to win,” Falchook said. “I was comfortable out there but Joel gave me a pretty good push all race.”
Despite Falchook’s win and two other all-conference performances by teammates Cooper James, Evan Amaya—who finished fourth and fifth respectively – the Storm could do no better than a tie for the team championship with Tohopekaliga, who also finished with 34 team points.
Under OBC rules, only the top five finishers count in the team scoring but when there is a tie for first, it is broken by the sixth place runner for each school. Tohopekaliga got their 34 team points with third and fourth places finished by Julian Pomales and Johan Comacho; eighth and ninth place finishes by Javan Medina and Jayven Garcia; and a 12th place finish by Zeniel Lizardo.
That left the tie to be broken by the sixth runner from each school and Tohopekaliga ended up claiming their first OBC cross country championship when Max Ciulla finished in 17th — one scoring spot and eight seconds ahead of Celebration’s Justin Quispe.
“We told our runners all season that meets are rarely won by the top of the roster and every spot counts. You need contributions for everyone to win a team championship and that is certainly what happened today,” Tohopekaliga Head Coach Matt Fenn said.
It was just the second Orange Belt Conference team title won by the Tigers – a four-year-old school. They joined the Lady Tigers volleyball team that won the school’s first OBC crown earlier in the month. “We want to build a special program here and this is definitely another step in that process,” Fenn added.
Falchook, Jean, James, Amaya, Pomales, Comacho, Medina and Garcia all earned All-OBC honors with their top eight finishes, as did St. Cloud’s Jonn Ortiz who finished seventh overall.
Although Edwards (19:33.13) out-distanced close friend and Harmony rival Lailana Decker (19:38.05) for the girls’ individual title; it was not enough to keep the Longhorns from winning a fourth straight OBC team championship.
“It was pretty hot out there, but I felt good for the entire race,” Edwards said. “I’m real happy for Lailana, we trained together all summer and she really challenged me out there.”
In addition to Decker’s second place finish, the Longhorns got all-conference performances from Alanie Rivera and Eliana Halk who finished 3rd and 6th overall. For the meet, Harmony finished with 26 points; Celebration, who had Camille Barrios earn a spot on the All-OBC team with an eighth place finish ended up in second place with 36 team points.
Tohopekaliga was third with 87 points; followed by St. Cloud (112) and Gateway (114). Liberty’s Nyidjah Ives and Toho’s Amari Whetro rounded out the All-OBC team by finishing in fourth and fifth place overall.
“It was a little nerve-racking but we expected a close meet,” Harmony Head Coach Shasta Edwards said. “I’m proud of runners for defending the OBC title. We’ll continue to work hard and get ready for districts.”