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BRANDON -- After the first organized cross country workout of her life two summers ago, Academy of the Holy Names middle schooler Colleen Doherty told her father Pat, “I like the feeling you have when you’re all done.”
A Bayflite nurse and former Jesuit High runner, Pat presumed the oldest of his three kids was experiencing “runner’s high,” that momentary sense of euphoria common among distance specialists.
What he couldn’t have detected was the irony in his daughter’s statement.
A year later, it doesn’t appear as if Colleen will be done any time soon.
Still more than two months shy of her 14th birthday, Doherty has emerged as the best runner on a very promising Jaguars team. She would’ve been the best in 2009 if Coach Ray Rodriguez allowed first-year middle school runners to compete on varsity.
Even now, Rodriguez is taking things slowly with his fastest runner.
“I run her with the rest of the girls; she’s not training to her ability level,” Rodriguez said after watching Doherty finish a team-best fourth (21:02.06) on a wet, uneven horse trail Tuesday at the Seffner Christian CC Classic.
“She’s training to everybody else’s ability right now.”
When turned loose by Rodriguez, Doherty has held her own with the county’s best. At last week’s West Hillsborough Invitational, she finished second (20:12.15), running neck and neck with winner Julia Rodriguez before the Plant sophomore pulled away.
At the Sept. 10 FACA Classic on a waterlogged Ed Radice Park course, she finished 18th (20:11.45) in the girls’ elite race against some of the state’s premier runners.
On Tuesday, she ran at a moderate predetermined pace the first two miles to help preserve her tank for Friday’s flrunners.com Invitational 11 in Titusville. When that race commences, Rodriguez likely will let Doherty hit her full stride.
He won’t let her hit a wall. “Not on my watch, man,” he said. “She’s going to progress nicely.”
“We don’t push her at all,” Pat Doherty added. “And Ray’s the same way, he’s concerned about her burning out. She still loves it and it’s something for her to do that’s fun as far as we’re concerned right now.”
East Coast convergence: All of the area’s elite teams are converging in Titusville this weekend for the flrunners.com Invitational 11, where dozens of teams from around Florida will compete on a scenic lakefront course.
Ten varsity races are scheduled, including four on Friday. The highlight: Saturday morning’s boys and girls race of champions. The full schedule, as well as the list of local teams competing, can be found here.
(Because only one local race was held in the last week, our rankings haven’t changed.)
Boys Top Five
1. Max del Monte, Chamberlain
Recorded county’s first sub-16-minute time of year (15:57.44) at McCall Invitational
2. Jake Covington, Chamberlain
Should run neck-and-neck with del Monte all season
3. Bo Nalsen, Plant
Winner of West Hillsborough Invitational (16:25.54) should sneak into 15s by November
4. Travis Christenberry, Plant
Runner-up to Nalsen at West Hillsborough (16:33.94)
5. Michael Babinec, Riverview
Finished behind only del Monte and Covington at McCall Invitational
Girls Top Five
1. Julia Rodriguez, Plant
Ran at a pace and still coasted to West Hillsborough Invitational title (19:46.81)
2. Grace Van De Grift, Durant
Made sparkling 2010 debut with victory at McCall Invitational (19:31.74)
3. Katherine Ralston, Plant
Posted an impressive time (20:06.75) on waterlogged course at FACA Classic
4. Sabrina Whiting, Seffner Christian
Eclipsed 20 minutes on rural course at Mitchell Invitational
5. Colleen Doherty, Academy of the Holy Names
Eighth-grader was second at West Hillsborough Invite (20:12.15)