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Rebels' Kieffer headed to dream destination
Candace Kieffer
Effingham County's Candace Kieffer runs in Thursday's Honey Ridge Plantation race. She finished first.

GUYTON — The stress of choosing a college swirled in her head and traveled straight down to her feet, and Effingham County senior Candace Kieffer, the school record-setter in distance running, began to doubt herself.

“I’d get in the race and I’d start thinking, “I’m not doing good. I’m not going to sign anywhere. No one is going to want me,” ” Kieffer said.

All the worrying was for naught and eventually blew over like a hurricane. Her first choice, the University of Miami, never wavered.

Kieffer announced her commitment to take her talents to South Beach recently on Facebook and then returned to the business of winning cross country races. On Thursday, she won the 10-team Last Chance Invitational at the Honey Ridge Plantation.

She’ll be trying to repeat as champion at the Region 2-AAAAAA Cross Country Championships in Brunswick on Thursday with the Class AAAAAA state meet in Carrollton on Nov. 6 to follow.

Kieffer said academics and athletics played a big role in choosing Miami. She has aspirations of being in the school’s highly regarded medical program along with running cross country and track.

“I went during the summer (for an official visit) and felt that feeling,” Kieffer said. “Then I took two other visits and was still thinking about Miami. That’s when I knew. I feel like I can really progress there.”

Kieffer holds ECHS’ records in cross country (18:48.50), in the 1600 (5:14.69) and in the 3200 (11:36.15).

But this year, she felt as if she wasn’t progressing. She holds the school’s top six times in cross country, but none of those times came this season.

“Physically, I’m not where I wanted to be (tapering toward the prep season’s biggest races), but mentally I feel a lot better (not stressing about college any more),” Kieffer said.

South Effingham’s Phillips breaks venue mark

South Effingham’s sophomore runner Tyler Phillips had hoped to break the course record at the Honey Ridge Plantation. Technically, it wasn’t possible  — the layout was changed.

But Phillips did the next best thing, capturing the top time in the venue, by posting a 16:20 — about a second faster than Southeast Bulloch Avery Jaynes’ 16:20.96 set last season.

Jaynes is now running at Augusta State University.

Phillips ran a 16:33.3 on the Honey Ridge course on Sept. 23. The sophomore had his season’s best time of 16:06.3 at the Alexander ASICS Invitational on Oct. 2 — just short of the school mark of 16:03 set by David Pleines in 2003.

“At this time of the year, I’d wanted to be slightly faster but this is close,” Phillips said. “Just racing against Cailan (teammate Cailan Howard) every week is good preparation. He’ll be one of the favorites in the region, so it’s good competition.”

Official times for the Honey Ridge race weren’t available but coach Laura Soles had hand-held times for her runners.

SEHS’ top-five boys were Phillips (1st, 16:20), Howard (2nd, 16:35), Joey Burdick (7th, 17:35), Karistopher Gadsden (10th, 17:55) and Caiden Mason (18th, 18:12).

SEHS’ top-five girls were Cheyenne Ryan (4th, 21:09), Mia Fitzpatrick (22:25), Madison Lockhart (22:47), Brianna Barber (22:48) and Melanie Ripley (23:11).