All-News4JAX girls cross country: Love of running grows for Bolles’ Candelino

The All-News4JAX fall sports teams will be released Dec. 27 through Jan. 5. (News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jillian Candelino didn’t understand what she was missing out on until she went through it.

The back-to-back All-News4JAX girls cross country runner of the year, Candelino was in the midst of her freshman track season when the pandemic put the brakes on things.

Since she’d never gone through the full grind of fall cross country followed by a spring track season, Candelino didn’t truly understand what she was missing out on.

Now, she can’t imagine a season without running. The junior is a state champion leading the most successful program in state history. Bolles won back-to-back titles in 2020-21, the latter the 13th in program history and now the most in Florida history.

“I wasn’t as serious about track and cross country back then. So, I know when all these things were getting canceled my [older] sister and my [older] brother were like devastated,” she said. “And for me, it didn’t affect me as much because like I said I wasn’t as serious about it at the time. But it kind of made me hyper focus on cross country because there wasn’t a lot going on around the world, everything was shut down.

“So, I kind of just focused on it more and it made me focus on cross country. Gave me a love for the sport. So, if that ever happened to me now, the pandemic, I’d probably be devastated. But I think last year, or at the time of the pandemic, it kind of taught me to be thankful for running.”

Candelino was superb in cross country last year. She led the Bolles team to a record state championship performance and then rolled right into the track season. She said much of the springtime was spent in online class to avoid any COVID issues that could threaten track.

Track practice was an escape.

“So, literally I would just like stay home all day on my computer, and then the only thing I looked forward to my day was track practice,” Candelino said. “… It was just like a fun, bright moment in my day where I got to hang out with my friends and everything and run, and I think that’s where it kind of picked up, just resonating running with that like free feeling.”

Candelino’s progression from season to season showed her improvement.

She went 18:42.40 to finish state runner-up at last year’s Class 2A meet. This year, Candelino went more than a minute lower with a PR of 17:36.50 at the FSU Invitational. She won state this year in 17:53.20.

All-News4JAX girls cross country team

First team

Runner, School, Class

Reilly Barber, St. Augustine, Sr.

Three-time All-News4JAX selection. Finished 11th at Class 3A state meet. Sixth at region and district runner-up. Also had a win this year at the Middleburg Bronco Classic.

Sofia Bushkell, Ponte Vedra, Fr.

Excellent first season on the course. District and region champ and took fifth in Class 3A state meet. PR of 18:16 came at district. Three individual wins this season and helped lead Sharks to team state title.

Jillian Candelino, Bolles, Jr.

All-News4JAX girls runner of the year for the second consecutive season. District, region and state champ. Has won region titles each of her three seasons. PR of 17:36.50 came at FSU Invitational Pre-State meet. Led Bolles to back-to-back state championships.

Tessa Massa, Fletcher, Fr.

Another good area freshman. PR of 18:59.30 came in third-place region effort. Gateway Conference runner-up. Fifth at district and third at region. Took 16th in Class 3A state meet.

Elizabeth McClure, Bolles, Fr.

Eighth at Class 2A state meet with PR of 18:54.90. Fourth at district and fifth at region.

Ellie Moritz, Ponte Vedra, Sr.

Third at district, fourth at region and 15th in Class 3A state meet. PR of 18:57.40 came at FSU Invitational. Took fifth at Katie Caples in helping the Sharks win the team title there. Won the Bob Hans Invitational at Ridgeview.

Jada Williams, Flagler Palm Coast, Sr.

District runner-up and third at region. Finished sixth in Class 4A state meet. Her PR of 18:46.80 came at district. Won one meet this year, the Five Star Championship.

Second team

Runner, School, Class

Elizabeth Csikai, Bolles, Jr.

Season-low time of 19:17 came in the Cecil Field Summer Classic. Ninth at district, 17th at region and 46th at state meet.

Lucrezia Gowdy, Episcopal, Fr.

PR of 19:02 came in her first meet, a fourth-place finish at the Cecil Field Summer Classic. District and region runner-up. Took 26th at Class 2A state meet.

Annie Loehle, Mandarin, Sr.

Gateway Conference champ had her PR of 19:18.60 in fourth-place finish at district. Took 13th and both region and state.

Ella Mickler, Bolles, Jr.

Season-low of 19:15.70 came in the FSU Invitational. Took 10th at district, seventh at region and 15th in Class 2A state meet.

Hadley Ropp, Bolles, Sr.

PR of 19:14.10 came in fourth-place finish in region. Sixth at district and 13th in Class 2A state meet.

Amelia Tackling, Ponte Vedra, So.

Another of the Sharks’ excellent runners, her 19:02 PR came at the New World Fall Spectacular. Fourth at district and fifth at region. Took 29th at 3A state meet for team champion Sharks.

Laci Watford, University Christian, Sr.

Multi-year star for the Christians. Won the Craig Speziale Invitational. Low time of 19:04.30 came in third-place finish at Class 1A region meet. District runner-up. Took ninth in state meet.

Honorable mention

Runner, School, Class

Grace Adams, Fleming Island, Sr.

Viola Barquilla, Fletcher, Sr.

Leila Bata, Bolles, So.

Mary Biagini, Bishop Kenny, Jr.

Estella Bruneau, Bolles, 8th

Kasey Davey, Providence, 7th

Lindsay Gonzales, Mandarin, Sr.

Alexis Holmes, Bishop Kenny, So.

Rylan Holmquist, St. Augustine, So.

Olivia Kemp, Menendez, Sr.

Allie Knotts, Fleming Island, So.

Hannah Kowkabany, Episcopal, So.

Katelyn Lawrence, St. Augustine, So.

Maddie Popp, Bolles, Sr.

Meia Popp, Bolles, So.

Daisy Ross, Ponte Vedra, Fr.

Audrey Singletary, Nease, Sr.

Kathryn Saunders, Bishop Kenny, Jr.

Aide Trejo, Ponte Vedra, Jr.

Hilaree Vega, Ponte Vedra, So.

Lindy White, Ponte Vedra, So.

Cassidy De Young, Flagler Palm Coast, Fr.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.