NICEVILLE - Athletes preparing for Saturday’s Okaloosa County Cross Country Meet awoke to windy, blustery conditions and then had to tackle one of the area’s hardest courses at Niceville’s Eglin Golf Course.
Tough conditions for some, but apparently just right for Fort Walton Beach’s stable of runners.
The Viking girls and boys both dominated Saturday morning’s meet, as Emma Rudman and Ivy Chastain finished 1-2 on the girls’ side and Tim Bulger led the boys’ team to a perfect finish, as the Vikings secured the top five individual spots to secure an impressive sweep.
“Both teams have put in such hard work and days like today give us confidence going forward,” said FWB girls’ head coach Lissette Moller. “This was a great place to race and I was pleased with the way we ran.”
Rudman and Chastain gave the Vikings momentum from the very beginning Saturday morning, as the pair jumped out to the front of the pack and never looked back, crossing the line separated by just five seconds to claim the top two spots. Rudman finished the hilly course in 20:17 while Chastain crossed the line in 20:22
“It feels really awesome but those hills almost killed me,” said Rudman of the Eglin course. “This is by far the hardest course I’ve ever ran. It got tough there at times, but I knew we just had to keep moving. I was really excited to see the finish line.”
Niceville’s girls placed second as a team, paced by Anna Herrera’s eight-place finish of 22:47, and West Florida Tech finished third.
Joining Rudman and Chastain were three more top 10 finishers from FWB, including Autumn White in fourth, April Polite in sixth and Rhianna Moller in seventh. Sarah Steele of Choctaw was fifth.
While FWB’s girls came close to pulling off a perfect top five finish, the Fort Walton Beach boys did achieve that milestone. Led by overall winner Tim Bulger, the Vikings crossed the finish line in nearly the exact order they started, as Charlie Shackelford was second, Trey LaNasa third, Alex Godfrey fourth and Brian Day fifth.
Like his counterpart, Bulger was surprised by the course’s difficulty.
“There were so many hills,” Bulger said with a smile. “But running with these guys…It just feels great to have a perfect run. We always like to run as a pack, to stick together. Today, we were able to do that and we all came in together.”
Bulger won the event with a time of 17:13, seconds ahead of Shackelford’s 17:17, and the second-place finished echoed his teammates’ sentiment.
“It was a tough course, but when you’re out there together, it just makes it so much easier,” said Shackelford. “We truly focus as a team, we when one of us wins, we all win. Tim is a great friend of mine, and it feels awesome to watch him win.”
Navarre finished second as a team and West Florida Tech third.
The regular season now complete, the Okaloosa County teams that participated Saturday will now turn their attention to the district meet, which will be held Saturday in Pace.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Brandon Walker at 850-315-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonWnwfdn.