The Oak Hall boys and girls teams came away with second-place finishes Saturday in the Class 1A competition and Gainesville High ninth-grader Ani Veltcheva set the fastest 5K time ever by an area athlete in finishing second in Class 3A at the FHSAA Cross Country Championships at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee

The Oak Hall girls faced a tough task in upending defending champion Circle Christian of Winter Park, but found themselves in the lead by six points at the first mile. However, the Centurions regained the lead by the second mile and outpaced the Eagles winning by 20 points — 70-90.

The Eagles were led by ninth-grader Lauren Jones, who finished third in a time of 18:34. Teammates Sydney Miller, Harrison Grooms, Ally Means and Eliana Eisner set personal bests to place in the top 40 to earn the Eagles second place by 58 points.

“We knew it was going to be a tough battle to be second looking at all the teams in the state,” said Eagles coach Edwin McTureous, whose team finished third last year. “They laid it on the line and competed extremely hard. If you asked me if we would have been within 20 points of Circle Christian at the beginning of the year, I just can’t be any more proud.”

By virtue of their second-place finish at regional, the Eagle boys came in picked to finish fourth. The Eagles, however, placed five runners in the top 75 to finish second with a score of 169 to defending state champion Mount Dora Christian Academy (84 points). The Eagles improved from their 10th-place finish last year. It's the highest finish ever by an Eagles team in school history. The last time they finished second was 1995.

“As a team, we’ve never been that that good, but over the last couple of years, we’ve worked really really hard and we were starting to get into the mix with some of the top teams,” said Eagle sophomore Austin Montini, who finished sixth in a time of 16:15. “Today, everything came together, we all set personal records and we came in second. Our team performance was amazing. We’re really excited about that.”

Veltcheva was in contention for the individual title at the mile, but allowed eventual winner Valerie Lastra of Mater Academy to gap her and go away with the win in a time of 17:17, the ninth fastest time in Florida history. Veltcheva’s time of 17:47 eclipsed Buchholz’s Hillary White’s area best time of 17:58 set in 1999 at the Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte, N.C. The time also equaled Ashley Brasovan of Wellington’s fastest ninth-grader time ever in Florida meet history set in 2005.

“Ani was in perfect position, perfect first mile, perfect first mile and a half. Lastra surged on her a couple of times and just got that gap on her,” said GHS coach Curtis Cooper. “ She’s only in ninth grade. I told her after the race that she could come back and get that girl in track.”

Veltcheva said, "I felt I left it all out there in the course. The hill on the back part which everyone calls ‘The Wall’ was really hard especially on the second loop before the finish. I’m only a freshman right now and I wanted to get out there and do my best and see what I could do. I’m super happy with second place.”

Buchholz’s Cade Monk was favored to finish in the Top 10 in Class 4A. However, late Friday evening he became sick. He finished 52nd in a time of 16:56 to lead the Bobcats to a 16th-place finish.

Full results of the state meet can be found at halfmiletiming.com.