MOORE HAVEN — Kaleb Thomas won’t have to wait until next fall to see the benefits from his first season running for the Moore Haven High School cross country program.

In his first cross country season, Moore Haven High School’s Kaleb Thomas improved his times by a few minutes. (Courtesy photo)

All those after-school workouts running up and down the bridge over the Calosahatchee River and all those sprints in the family pasture on the Brighton Reservation have paid off for Thomas as the Terrier sophomore prepares to shift from cross country runner to baseball outfielder.

“I see a huge difference from last year to this year. I’m way faster,” said Thomas, who hopes his increased speed will help his chances of earning a spot on the varsity baseball team.

Thanks to the urging of his friends, Thomas decided to join the cross country team before school started. Being able to run long distances – including 5K in meets – wasn’t an issue for Thomas, who prepped by training for and competing in track events in July at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto.

“It did come pretty easy, but after that I had to work hard,” he said. “I wanted to get my time faster. My first time was 24:03.”

Through dedication with the team and on his own, Thomas improved throughout the season and shaved about three minutes off his debut time.

His PR (personal record) was 21:03 in a home meet against Lake Placid. He concluded the season Oct. 28 with a time of 21:43 at the Class 1A-District 8 meet in Naples. Thomas had the fourth fastest time on the Moore Haven team and finished 49th out of 82 runners against schools mostly from Fort Myers and Naples.

Thomas said a lot of his improvement was due to help from Cristobal Morales and Delfino Mayorga, the team’s top two runners.

“They’ve helped me a lot this year,” Thomas said. “Chris is like a legend here, fastest kid in the high school.”

Thomas used the bridge to improve his breathing and sprints in the pasture to boost his kick.

The Moore Haven boys and girls cross country teams, which includes Kaleb Thomas of the Brighton Reservation, center, competes in a meet during the fall season. (Courtesy photo)

“[Running the bridge] helps me focus on breathing, my stride and getting better. This year I struggled with my kick and I knew I had to get better with my sprint,” he said.

As much as he enjoyed his first cross country season, Thomas’s primary sport is baseball. He is squarely focused on the upcoming season this winter and spring.

“I love the game,” he said.

Thomas plans to run cross country again next fall and knows he’ll have to train even harder to knock his time down further if he wants to finish in the teens. For now, the low 20s was enough of an accomplishment.

“I’m real happy with that. I improved a lot,” he said.

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