Alligator Lake Invitational is next challenge for TCC cross-country team

TCC cross country team is looking for a top-10 finish in Lake City for the Alligator Lake Invitational this weekend.
Photo courtesy of Adrian White

Special to the Outlook

Cross-country coach Gary Droze doesn’t hesitate to put the Tallahassee Community College team in the toughest competition within reasonable proximity of the city.

He is taking the Eagles to their next stop in Lake City for the Alligator Lake Invitational on Friday. TCC can count on seeing competition just as challenging as they did in their last outing at the Valdosta State University Border Clash in Georgia. 

The men’s and women’s teams competed in the event.

The men placed eighth in the team standings, which included the likes of the host VSU Blazers, University of Tampa, Florida Southern College, University of West Alabama, Georgia College and Flagler College. TCC finished third among the five NJCAA programs that participated, finishing behind Daytona State College and Lake-Sumter State College. 

Leo Rutledge paced the Eagles by finishing 15th in the field of 122 runners. A week after clocking his first 8K time, Rutledge ran the 7.25K in 24:26.2, a school record for that distance, which is unique to the VSU Border Clash. 

Ryan Sloan was next across the finish line for Tallahassee in 63rd with a time of 26:30.0. Jalani White (26:54.8), Shawn Marcum (27:11.8) and Khary Wright (27:34.4) finished the scoring for TCC. 

The team time average of 26:32 over the 4.5-mile course was a significant improvement from the TCC Cross Country Open a week earlier, according to coach Droze, following the meet in Valdosta. 

“There is still plenty of work to do,” said Droze, “but with an open date next weekend, the men have an opportunity for focused, hard training as we prepare for our next race.” 

Bryce Bass posted a 29:43.9 and Jahari White a 34:11.6 to round out the men’s finishers. In the women’s 5K, Arielle Valdes finished 75th with a time of 24:02.3. 

Rutledge gets National Runner of the Week honor

Even before freshman Leo Rutledge attended his first college class, the Tallahassee native and Maclay School grad, made his collegiate debut on the trails and picked up a pair of individual recognitions. 

He was recently named the Region 8 Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week. He followed that up by earning the same honor from the NJCAA. 

Rutledge made his collegiate debut in TCC Cross Country Open, where he started in his first-ever 8K event. He finished as the top collegiate runner and placed second overall with a time of 28:52.61.   Rutledge and his teammates scored a head-to-head win over the University of Florida’s running club in the team standings.