Port Orange eighth-grader Olivia Niewald ran two miles in 13 minutes, 7.80 seconds.
By Jennifer Kirschner
When Olivia Niewald first started running cross country in fifth grade, she was so nervous she would be sick before every race. She has worked hard to overcome those nerves, and it paid off on Thursday, Nov. 29, when she was crowned the girls county champion at the first Volusia County Middle School Cross Country Championship, featuring almost 400 runners, at Spruce Creek High School.
Olivia, an eighth-grader at Creekside Middle, finished the two-mile race in 13 minutes, 7.80 seconds.
2018 has been the inaugural season for Volusia County's middle school cross country programs.
Port Orange's Silver Sands Warriors and Creekside Cougars joined 11 other middle schools at the championship.
Creekside's girls team placed first and was crowned the 2018 County Champions. Creekside's top five runners were Olivia Niewald, first place; Kylie Davis, ninth; Lauren Williams, 10th; Isabella Niewald, 14th; Adriana De Los Rios, 32nd.
Creekside's boys team placed fourth. Their top runner was Kasey Wheatley, who was in second place.
Silver Sands' boys team placed second. Their top runner was Braden Stenton, sixth place.
Silver Sands' girls team placed ninth. Their top runner was Makena Dipersia, 43rd.
River Springs Middle School from Orange City took first place for the boys race.
Olivia began running in fifth grade with the Spruce Creek Running & Fitness club team. She said her secret to success is stretching well and mentally preparing herself. Her faith in God is also important: She prays before each race. She also enjoys the bond that the team shares, and she loves that every team member is important.
"It is a team sport, and even though everyone doesn't finish at the top, they are still nice to each other," Olivia said.
She is motivated by trying to beat her personal record. She looks forward to continuing her running career next year as a freshman at Spruce Creek High School.