Lake Highland 7th-grader is FHSAA state cross country champion

Three weeks ago Lake Highland Prep seventh grader Annabella Tomasic ran away with a middle school cross country state championship in a 3,000-meter race.

That was child’s play compared to what the 13-year-old running phenom accomplished on Friday morning.


Tomasic won the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 2A state championship, running 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in a time of 17 minutes, 32.9 seconds at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. She finished well ahead of junior runner-up Mackenzie De Lisle (17:50.2) of Fort Myers Bishop Verot and ran the fastest girls time of the day ahead of the 4A, 3A and 1A race winners.

It was no surprise. Tomasic won her ninth consecutive meet after finishing second to De Lisle in her Aug. 25 high school debut.

“I did run a great time and I did win. Definitely that’s what I wanted to happen,” Tomasic said in a phone interview after her victory. “I did feel pre-race nerves, but those are normal. I was here because I wanted to be here. I told myself I’m just going to run my race regardless of the result.”

De Lisle was right with Tomasic after one mile — both at 5:20. Tomasic separated herself in the second mile, crossing that mark in command at 11:07 with a 12-second lead.

“If there’s a challenge, she’ll meet it,” said Lake Highland coach Gerry Spring. “She’s very, very competitive in a good way. She has a maturity in running that’s pretty rare.”

Tomasic is not the first seventh grader to win an FHSAA cross country title, but she might be the most promising runner her age that Florida has ever seen.

She is too young to run in the prestigious Foot Locker Cross Country meet, Dec. 9, in San Diego. That’s only for grades 9-12. But she does plan to compete against national competition in the Dec. 2 RunningLane championships in Huntsville, Ala.

Lake Highland 7th-grader Annabella Tomasic smashes cross country records

Joining Tomasic on the awards stand was Hagerty senior Jonathan Leon, who placed a close second in the 4A boys race with a time of 15:07.0.

Leon was edged at the finish by a future college teammate, Riley Smith (15:05.5) of Gainesville Buchholz. Both signed this month to run cross country and track for Florida.

“Going into the race I knew it was going to be a battle between me, Riley and Matt Ryan [Nease],” Leon said. “I was really proud of my performance today. I gave 100% of what I had. Riley got me at the end.”

Leon does plan to run in the Foot Locker South Regional meet, Nov. 25, in Charlotte, N.C. That’s a qualifier for the national meet.

Hagerty’s fifth-place finish was the area’s boys best on a cool, overcast morning that was ripe for running.

“We’ll take that. We had a good day. Ran up to our expectations,” Hagerty coach Jay Getty said. “Always want to make sure you get up here and perform. We did that.”

The East Ridge girls finished fifth in 4A with sophomores Rhyen Foley (19:14.8) and Veronica Peterson (19:25.3) leading the way. They were the area’s fastest in that race, ahead of Olympia junior Emily Knopfle (19:31.2).

The Master’s Academy was fifth in 1A with senior Ava Wyant running 18:45.7 for eighth individually.

Bishop Moore’s boys were seventh in 2A with senior Liam Griffiths clocking a 16:39.7 time. Lake Highland Prep junior Kai Meffe ran 16:17.1 to place ninth individually.

Girls team top 10 finishers were Lake Minneola (seventh) and Winter Springs (11th) in 3A; Winter Park (eighth) in 4A; and Montverde Academy (10th) in 2A.

Seniors Gabriel Abbate (15:53.6) of Hagerty, Dylan Torres (16:04.2) of Lake Nona and Dylan Cannella (16:06.1) of Boone were the second-, third- and fourth-fastest Orlando area 4A boys behind Leon. West Orange junior Jaiden Mckee ran 16:08.4 for 27th place.

Circle Christian junior Will Neeld finished fourth in the 1A boys final at 16:02.1.

Tavares ninth grader Cheyenne Thomas ran 18:30.9 to place sixth in the 3A girls race. Winter Springs senior Jolynn Rodriguez was 17th at 19:17.4.

Mount Dora’s Hannah Douglas (18:46.8) and Bishop Moore’s Samantha Lorey (19:08.1) were No. 12 and 15 in girls 2A.

Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at