The Emerald Coast and Ruckel middle school cross-country teams won first-place trophies at the Florida Youth Running Association (FLYRA) Middle School State Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Holloway Park in Lakeland.

LAKELAND — What’s better than one cross-country state championship? Try two cross-country state championships.


Saturday, Emerald Coast and Ruckel middle schools sent their boys and girls cross-country teams to Holloway Park in Lakeland and brought home all the hardware from the Florida Youth Running Association Middle School State Cross Country Championships.


For the first time in program history the Stingray boys are state champions, while their girls placed fourth.


Likewise, the Rams brought home the gold in the girls division, and their boys placed third.


Competing against 233 athletes from 28 teams, eighth-grader Jonah Kirspel set the high-water mark for ECM with his second-place finish, while eighth-grader Payne Griner placed 16th.


"I knew for most of the season that we had a very special group of student athletes — both girls and boys — and that they were very capable of capturing a state title," Stingrays coach Willie Parker said. "They have worked incredibly hard all season and it paid off Saturday morning.


"I am very proud of their outstanding effort and the result."


Eighth-grader Seamus Hodge was Ruckel’s lone medalist, placing 12th.


On the girls’ side, Ruckel eighth-graders Lexi Roberts and Hailey Holtery and seventh-grader Mackenzie Thompson placed sixth, 18th and 23rd, respectively, against a field of 232 runners to pace the first-place Rams.


"Our team just had a very successful state championships weekend," Ruckel coach Becky Holtery said.


Meanwhile, ECM had three top-20 finishes. All Seventh-graders Annabelle Melberg placed third, Mimi Jersey placed 10th and Claire Griner placed 13th.