Marlin trekkers young and competitive

TINA HARBUCK
Destin Marlins take to the track to practice.

They may be young, but the Destin Middle School cross country team looks to be competitive on the trail this year.

"We're so young our top guy is a fifth grader and our second is a sixth grader," said Coach Ben Kackley. "We only have one eighth grader in the top seven."

The same is true for the girls with only one eighth grader in the top seven, returner Erin Eubanks.

"Basically we are going to return the same team next year," Kackley said, with a couple of exceptions.

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With about 50 youth wanting to run cross country this year, coach went to a three-day tryout and took the top 15 boys and top 15 girls.

"We tried to even out the numbers this year," between the boys and girls, he said. "And really find out who wanted to be on the cross country team this year.

"We found some really, really fast girls … we have a really good top seven."

Leading the pack is Eubanks, an eighth grader, followed up by seventh graders, Delaney Cookman, Maguire Holahan, Abbie Stanford, Clara Beth Lafollette, Maile Sweeney and Lauren Adams.

As for the boys team, "We had a boy show up on the last day and be my fastest runner of the week … a fifth grader," Kackley said.

Fifth grader Luke Bilger came out and ran a 13:30, which was 13 seconds faster than the next guy vying for tops on the list.

Others rounding out the top seven for the boys include Daniel Fadida, Wesley Shackelford, Joey Jones, Theo Cross, Evan Olsen and Carson Hickok.

In addition to being young, Kackley says he sees both teams being competitive this year.

"The girl’s team has been competitive all summer. They've been swapping back and forth," for position, he said.

"If they're that competitive with each other, I can't wait to see them run against another team," Kackley said.

Coach Kackley runs a summer camp each year where the youth run four days a week.

This year he had his largest and best attendance with 30 kids. The summer camp goes for about six or seven weeks and the youth meet in various locations to run such as Crab Trap, Clement Taylor Park and the school.

"Over the summer I was a little worried about the boy’s team," he said. "I didn't know who was going to come out and then at the beginning of the school year a couple of new additions showed up. They have made the boy’s team competitive through the top seven as well."

The new additions were Bilger, sixth grader Theo Cross and seventh grader Evan Olson.

Last year the Destin girls team finished second in the county, while the boys finished somewhere toward the bottom of the pack.

"We had a down year, that was last year," Kackley said. "The guys that have returned are hungry and the new guys should just add depth to the team."

"We need to be competitive," he said.

Liza Jackson, who finished as state champions last year, will be the team to beat.

The Marlins plan to do some traveling this year. At the beginning of October they will travel to Titusville to participate in the Florida Runners Invitational, which is the best of the best, a kind of tune-up for the state meet.

But before then, the Marlins will head east this Wednesday for a practice meet with Emerald Coast Middle School.

The first regular scheduled meet for Destin is 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at Lewis Middle School.

ON THE TEAM

Girls: Erin Eubanks, Delaney Cookman, Maguire Holahan, Abbie Stanford, Clara Beth Lafollette, Maile Sweeney, Lauren Adams, Katie Gilbert, Adriana Figueroa, Halle Bright, Sidney Marotta, Abigail Kline, Lauren Tasillo, Caitlyn Ream and Eliza  Scoper.

Boys: Luke Bilger, Daniel Fadida, Wesley Shackelford, Joey Jones, Theo Cross, Evan Olsen, Carson Hickok, Luke Pierce, Will Tasillo, Logan Boyd, EJ Hill, Will Foster, Wesley Heyse, Logan Pakiz and Will Haught.