Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
Local Sports

She's got speed


Published:

Maybe you've heard of Lake Placid's sophomore speedster, Yadira Cortes. Because you probably haven't seen her.

She was often just a blur out on the course, zipping past runners as she galloped into the Class 2A-Region 3 meet. Cortes was the only Green Dragons girl to make it that far, where she finished in top 100 with an impressive time of 25:35.30.

"I was especially happy that I made it to regional's," Cortes said. "I really want to make it back next year, and I hope to be role model for other runners on the team."

In only her first year running, Cortes credits her athleticism for taking to the sport so quickly.

"It's come pretty naturally," she said. "I played volleyball in middle school and I'm active in basketball and tennis, but cross country was never something I really thought of until I started doing it."

For her accomplishments this season, Cortes has been selected as the Highlands Today 2013 All-Highlands Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

"It is so cool to win," Cortes said. "I'm shocked. I didn't think I could win something like this. I've just always tried to stay focused on running. But this is awesome."

Cortes credit her coach, Scott Morgan, with being instrumental in developing her technique.

"He's just so passionate about running, it's awesome. He doesn't make us do anything that he wouldn't do."

Morgan noted that Cortes appears to share that same passion.

"She's just a great kid to work with," he said. "She just smiles at everything. We knew she had the talent and we really pushed her, and she pulled it off and made it to regional's."

"I can't wait to see what she does next year."

The Team

Sonia Becerra, senior, Lake Placid - In just her first year running, Sonia wowed coaches and teammates. She started the year off with a time in the high 35s, but eventually brought it down to 27:30.

"What a great kid," Morgan said. "She took a tremendous amount of time off as the year progressed. The only regret I have is that I wish I had more time with her."

Sarah Becerra, sophomore, Avon Park - Juggling multiple sports was no problem for Sarah. Despite a hectic schedule, she balanced cheerleading and cross country with ease, greatly impressing her Avon Park coaches.

"She just had several things going on," said Red Devils coach Don Hickman. "But none of it stopped her from excelling. She came to practice and ran hard. I think she can really improve even further if she puts in the work over the next two years."

Ashley Castelli, junior, Sebring - In just her second year on the team, Castelli set a scorching time of 23 minutes flat. Although she's fairly green to the sport, her teammates and coaches have picked up on her love for running.

"She's a very consistent runner," said Sebring girls cross country coach Krista Schult. "You could tell she enjoys the sport and has a passion for it. Her zeal was a big part in helping us qualify for regional's."

Nicole Moore, sophomore, Lake Placid - The captain for the Dragon girls, Moore's leadership skills helped make Lake Placid's cross country team one of the most cohesive units in Highlands County.

"She was the unanimous vote for captain," Morgan said. "She's a really good kid. She brought her time down all the way to 25:59 after being close to the 30s. We're proud to have her back for next season."

Gabriella Perez, junior, Lake Placid - Perez was another standout for the Green Dragons. She took her time down from the upper 24s and into the low 20s by the end of the season.

"She's a really amazing athlete," Morgan said. "Her first taste of running was during track season, but now she's really got a passion for it. She knows what she needs to do to get better and I'm really looking forward to seeing her next season."

Dianna Salinas, freshman, Sebring - After improving from meet to meet as the season progressed, Salinas set a personal record of 23:37, and is considered to be one of the top runners on the Blue Streaks.

"She's a really hard worker," Schult said. "She impressed me more and more as the year wore on, and she'll be one of just a handful of Sebring runners who are training for a half marathon."

Maria Gonzalez, junior, Lake Placid - A consistent time dropper, Gonzalez improved her time from the low 32s all the way down to the 28s. She also earned lofty praise for her work ethic.

"She could just about read your mind," Morgan said. "She's one of those kids who does whatever you ask before you've even asked it. She's awesome."

Katie Stoll, junior, Sebring - Stoll was widely regarded as Sebring's most improved runner. Not only did she set a PR of 24:16, she did after by overcoming an injury in the offseason.

"She really had to battle to get back on track," Schult said. "We had to be careful because we didn't want to rush it - we even had to hold her back a little bit. But it was nice to see how eager she was to get back into shape."

Brittany Egan, senior, Avon Park - The Red Devils coaching staff considered Egan their most dedicated runner. She was known for pushing the envelope during the season, and she excelled at cross country despite playing multiple sports.

"She was our most improved," Hickman said. "She easily would've been our best runner if she had come out as an underclassman. Her intelligence and personality are just something else. She was a great kid to coach."

Ashley White, junior, Sebring - White set a personal record in the regional meet with a sizzling 25:03. She probably would've done it sooner, if injuries hadn't hampered her for most of the year.

"She really battled to finish strong," Schult said. "Overcoming a sore hip is a really tough injury for a runner. But she bounced back and was a major factor in helping us reach regional's."

Honorable Mention

Jaesenia Cortez, sophomore, Lake Placid - Cortez had to battle some shin injuries that hurt her times this season. Despite that, she managed to knock off close to five minutes.

"Injuries really kept her from making it very far this season," Morgan said. "She didn't let it hold her back too much, though, as she brought her time down to the 30s."

Jennifer Pitino, senior, Avon Park - Work and school kept Pitino out of more practices than her Avon Park coaches would've liked, but her resolve to get better earned her a spot on the honorable mention list.

"She won some races, but she missed a lot of practices, and that hurt her," Hickman said. "She's smart and dedicated, and if she had more time to put in for running, she could've really made it far."

Brisia Fonseca, junior, Lake Placid - Fonseca dropped nearly 10 minutes off of her time, going from the high 41s all the day down to the low 32s. However, knee issues nagged at her all season.

"She just never gave up, even with all the knee issues," Morgan said. "She's persistent and you could tell she just really wanted it. She was a great kid to coach."

Coach of the Year

For her efforts in guiding a depleted Sebring roster to the regional meet, Krista Schult has been selected as the Highlands Today All-Highlands Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.

bhoward@highlandstoday.com

863-386-5841

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