By Heidy Brosofsky-Weaver
mail@floridanewsline.com

Standing in the middle of a busy corridor at Fruit Cove Middle School, Phillipine Rydel, a new seventh grade student from France, frantically looked for answers for her pressing questions. Lost, anxious, and unable to speak but a few words of English, she breathed a sigh of relief as a French-speaking teacher rescued her by providing directions to cross country (XC) practice.

XC Coach Jill Benavides then warmly welcomed Rydel to the 138-member team. “She quickly found her new family and closest friends,” Benavides said.

Snip's Tree and stump service over 25 years experience

When asked about her XC highlights, Rydel proudly shared the perseverance of a fellow runner.

“Chloe (Iliff) had a really bad knee injury, but she still placed third in State,” she said. “Chloe showed us that when you push to do your best, you can if you believe,” added Rydel, who came in first in the district meet and seventh in the state competition. 

Iliff agreed that XC takes “a lot of perseverance and faith to keep going.” The eight grader originally joined the team three years ago, following her sister’s footsteps and soon discovering her own love for the sport.

“At first, I didn’t want to do it, but it was so fun,” said Iliff. “Also, trusting in God really helps me to have more confidence — you can just see Him working on our team.”

Mia Till also likes the aspects of family, faith, and having a supportive leader.

“Coach Benavides is the best coach I’ve ever had in my life,” said Till, who first joined XC to increase her endurance for soccer. Till said Benavides gives her runners confidence and love and puts their needs before her own. “She has taught us that everyone matters, and we even cheer for our opponents.”

Benavides joined the team eight years ago as a pacer and has always loved connecting with young athletes through the sport that has brought her joy. Three years later, the mother of four became head coach. Although she was nervous about the time demands, she knew coaching would give her a chance to pour truth and value into the lives of runners, helping them develop a love for the sport and appreciate the importance of a true team. “Cross country is so much more than training the legs of these young people. It is reaching and directing their hearts to be the best person they can possibly be,” said Benavides.

Benavides continued, “Teaching them to lay down their personal agenda for the better of the team takes patience, diligence, and grace. Once they understand the overall goal, they are willing to work hard, and they reach their personal goals, as well.” 

Her runners agreed that training can be intense — especially during mile repeats.

Eighth grade student Ariana Brux said of Benavides: “She builds you up – not just saying, ‘Oh, you should be better.’ She runs with us and explains the value of what we are doing.”

Both the XC boys and girls teams won first place in the Florida Youth Championship in Lake City. In addition, the girls’ team won second in the Florida Middle School State Championship in Lakeland.

Photo courtesy Heidy Brosofsky-Weaver

Jill Benavides and runners 

  • Smiles by Glenos & Hadfic Orthodontists
  • I.T. Promise Inc. Computer Services Professional Computer Services business and residential
  • Pavers concrete and more Free estimates
  • Snip's Tree and stump service over 25 years experience
  • The right cleaners, LLC House cleaning services
  • Premier Homes Realty Inc. Michael Taylor and Tari Taylor
  • Quality Eye care 25+ years of experience
  • Vote Rod Hardwick for st johns county sheriff Working together for the strength of our community during challenging times
  • Preddy law firm estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, guardianship
  • Starling Nocatee, 360 degree virtual tour
  • Advertise in our May Issue The Creek Line
  • Staverman Hearing Centers Hear loud and clear
  • Support Community Journalism The Creek Line
  • Tutoring club of st johns. Text tutoring to 484848 for a chance to win one month of free tutoring
  • Being Well Florida News line is excited to introduce Being Well magazine
  • Westminster Woods on Julington creek. Live well. Be Happy
  • Have questions about your medicare benefits? Call a SHINE volunteer.
  • Ellegant earth solutions complete lawn maintenance with 28 years experience, complete lawn maintenance
  • Prudential Financial Planning Services with Andrew Laino
  • Vote for Dr. Erick Aguilar Republican candidate U.S. House Fl 4th district
  • Academy of Dance Open House & Registration August 19th and 20th 3pm to 6pm Classes start August 24th! Ballet, Pointem Jazz, Hip Hop Contemporary, Modern, Lyrical, Music Theatre, Vocal
  • Affordable Water
  • All About Ballroom
  • Do you only want cremation?
  • Craig Funeral services, Funeral, Crematory, Memorial Park
  • Cronin Ace Hardware
  • Vote for Christian Whitehurst! for St. Johns county commissioner, District 1
  • Doug Nunnery, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,
  • Finding the right doctor just got easier, Dr. Levine Baptist primary care
  • DIscount up to 30% Jim Register state farm agent
  • Nemetz Dental Associates! Your new smile awaits!
  • Deerwood Academy register now for 2020-2021 VPK
  • Eye center of st augustine, The eye surgery Center of St Augustine
  • Famous Automotive and tire center
  • Fruit Cove Baptist Church
  • The Goddard School summer camp
  • Havana Printing and office supply Call us today for all your cutome printing needs
  • Ian MacDonald Mortgage loan originator with Regions Mortgage
  • Julington Creek Chiropractic & Wellness Center P.A. serving st. johns county for nearly 21 years
  • Wild Birds Unlimited Nature shop. Have you watered your birds lately?
  • Creeks Air Conditioning & Heating. We service all makes and models for residential and commerical!
  • Crosswinds Veterinary Hospital. Preventative Medicine and wellness, Surgery, Dentistry, Labs and Imaging, Farm Animal Medicine, In-Patient and Emergency Care
  • Florida Waterways Inc. Your trusted Waterway Advisers
  • Julington Creek Family Dentistry. Implant Cosmetic and Restoration Dentistry. We are following Advanced Safety protocols set forth by CDC, OSHA and ADA guidelines for dental practices
  • Alicia Washington for Circuit Judge
  • Re-elect Mike Orfinger for circuit judge
  • Concrete Works! Free Estimates, driveways, Patios, Walkways, Concrete removal, Driveway extension, Pavers
  • Family Remodeling Contractors! Bath, Kitchen &ADA Remodeling
  • River Garden Senior Services, However and whenever you need us we're here
  • Starlight Gymnastics! Our #1 priority is your children!
  • Chris Strickland for ST Johns county sheriff!
  • Sugar Bear Antique Mall Summer spectacular sale July 10th-12th
  • Baptist Health, Great tools for motherhood
  • A Green Cleaner, Free pickup and delivery to your home!
  • HarborChase independent & assisted living Memory Care Mandarin. Your safety and peace of mind is always our Top Priority
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021