The East Lake Early Bird Invitational is in its seventh season. The last two meets have been on rubber tracks. The 2016 meet moved to Clearwater High while the rubber track was being installed at East Lake. For 2017, the Eagles got to host what would be many teams' first meet of the season, on their brand new rubber track.
Grace Blair led the Oak Hall Eagles back to the top of the podium after a 4th place team finish last year. Blair picked up individual honors as well to win her first state title. On the boy's side Mt. Dora Christian Academy's Gabriel Curtis won and helped the Bulldogs place second as a team behind Westminster Academy who won for the first time in over three decades. Andy Warrener recaps all of the 1A races.
Bailey Hertenstein and Kayley Delay came into the 4A Cross Country Finals with the top two times regardless of class. In the end it was Hertenstein who came away with her second straight title. On the team front, Steinbrenner ended a two year run by Winter Park at the top of the podium. Matt Doyle of Winter Springs won his first state title to end his senior cross country season, while St. Thomas Aquinas took their third team trophy in four years. Andy Warrener recaps the class 4A meet.
Freshmen Alyson Churchill and Valerie Lastra battled it our in the girls race as Niceville captured the team title. On the boy's side it was a rematch of regionals as Creekside edged out Chiles for the team trophy, but the Timberwolves crowned the individual champion in junior Michael Phillips. Andy Warrener recaps class 3A.
2A was one of the most exciting classifications of the day. On the girl's side Caitlin Collier revenged her heartbreaking loss from 2015 while the Pine Crest girls finally defeated Bolles after four years in a row as the runner-up. On the boy's side, Caleb Pottorff and Charles Hicks battled it out for 5,000 meters with Pottorff winning his first XC title. The team trophy came down to the narrowest margin as Trinity Prep took their fourth straight 2A crown. Andy Warrener recaps all of the 2A races.
Grace Blair of Oak Hall and Cooper LaBrant of Indian Rocks Christian both finished second at last year's regional, but came away with gold in 2016. On the team front the Oak Hall girls achieved their goal of winning with less than 40 points, while the boys had it a little harder edging out St. Stephens Episcopal by THREE points 97-100. Andy Warrener recaps all the 1A Region 2 action.
Both individual races in 2A- Region 3 were dominated by individual runners. On the girls side, it was Lemon Bay's Kelsi Oglivie, on the boys side it was Lake Wales' Paul Stafford. The Lely boys led by Joshua Wagner won the regional title over Dunbar while on the girl's side Academy of Holy Names and Berkeley Prep both used their depth to finish 1-2. Andy Warrener recaps all the action.
Land O' Lakes sophomore Natalie Abernathy and Vanguard junior Diego Lavieri-Sosa brought home their first regional championships by taking the 3A-2 crown at Holloway Park in times of 19:17.37 and 16:13.20. On the team side, Vanguard and Matanzas finished 1-2 while Logan Locascio and the Gainsville boys won by 18 points over New Smyrna Beach. Andy Warrener recaps all the action.
Having already asserted themselves at the Hillsborough County meet a week ago and all but one meet they competed in this season, the Steinbrenner Warriors swept both boys and girls titles at Al Lopez Park in Tampa.
Both defending district champions from 2015 held serve at Al Lopez Park in Tampa. First up were the girls and while the Academy Jaguars didn't return Greta Dieck to the top of the podium, junior Emma Zazzero came through to win the title for the Jags. Zazzero has emerged as the Jags' top runner in 2016.
Florida state cross country district meets got underway this week. The Class 4A District 8 meet kicked off Thursday morning at Taylor Park in Largo. The course at Taylor Park is as straightforward as it gets in cross country. Two laps around the Taylor Reservoir make the course with a slight split to the right for the last 10 meters into the finish line.
Andy Warrener was on-site at the 4A District 8 Championship at Taylor Park in Largo and captured nearly 300 photos of all the action including the boys race where athletes jostled for position hoping to make it in the top 15 and advance to regionals.
On the nicest day of the cross country season and the fastest course in Hillsborough County, the county cross country championships at Al Lopez Park in Tampa, made for some eye-popping times and the Tampa powerhouse Steinbrenner swept both varsity races and both JV races.
Hurricane Matthew threatened the Sunshine Athletic Conference or Pasco County cross country meet on Saturday. The close brush with the Category 4 hurricane forced cancellations of athletic event all over the state. The early season meet, the Wiregrass Ranch Run with the Bulls did get cancelled in the wake of Tropical Storm Hermine. The Citrus/Hernando County meet scheduled for last Thursday was postponed and dozens of Friday football games got re-scheduled. Fortunately, the storm had passed by Saturday morning, leaving a soggy, muddy course that spattered just about every runner on the course but nevertheless, the meet went on.
It's no secret that being a taller, longer-legged athlete is an advantage in cross country. Jacksonville Bolles' Caitlin Collier is a great example. United States Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp is 5-10, Usain Bolt is 6-5. There's no doubt that when jockeying for position out of the gates and coming in for that last kick, having those long strides is a definite advantage. So how do smaller runners adapt?
The 20th Annual Land O' Lakes Gator Invitational, recently renamed the Keppel Invite after late Gator coach Kris Keppel went off on Saturday at Crews Lake Park in Spring Hill. The course was a familiar one for many teams, starting down a grass straightaway before hitting pavement, then circling clockwise around the open starting area.
The Mitchell Invitational at Jay B Starkey Park in New Port Richey was in its ninth year on Saturday. However, it was the first year the meet was renamed in memory of former coach Mike Holl. Holl succumbed to brain cancer in February and his presence was an inspiring factor to not only Mitchell runners but to every runner from the 28 teams present.
The Kiwanis Tri-City Classic at Sand Key Park was more like a battle on the beach as area teams braved the sun and the sand. East Lake's Jen Lima and Indian Rocks Christian's Cooper LaBrant won individual titles while the Osceola girls and East Lake boys took home team trophies.
With a slew of meets going down all across the state, Pasco and Hernando County teams gathered at the Concourse Pavilion at the Pasco County Sheriff Department's Safety Town in Spring Hill.
Unpredictable weather is par for the course in Florida. If it's raining in one town, it could be dry in the next. If it's raining one minute, it might be clear the next. The course at Crescent Lake Park in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday was just that. An overcast start gave way to bouts of torrential rainfall, forcing meet officials to cancel the awards ceremony.
Hillsborough County powerhouse Steinbrenner made a resounding statement at the Wesley Chapel Wildcat Invitational on Saturday, pushing four runners into the top six and all seven runners into the top 10 and scoring a razor thin 20, easily out-pacing runner up Land O' Lakes with 43. Sunlake girls took third with 76.
Some of the smallest schools made some of the biggest waves at the 2016 FHSAA state track meet at IMG Academy over the weekend. The Admiral Farragut boys and Oak Hall girls took home team titles. Farragut boys, after the girls team won the 2015 state meet, made it their first team title in the school's 85-year history. Much of that can be attributed to the exploits of sprinter Alex Gray.
If there was a highlight to the Class 2A state track meet at IMG Academy in Bradenton, its name was Caitlyn Collier. Collier pulled off one of the most difficult feats possible in high school state track, a sweep of the 800m, 1600m and the 3200m. It puts Collier, still just a sophomore, in an elite class of state performers and into the FHSAA state record book.
Nothing has been able to stop the Miami Northwestern Bulls, not for the last eight years. The Bulls made it their eighth straight and their 13th overall championship over the weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton. It was not even close. The Bulls amassed 157 points over Friday and Saturday. Runner up Northeast came in at 43.50. The Bulls don't just do it with a handful of athletes.
Once in a long while and individual's performance transcends any combined team efforts. Once in a long while an individual does something so heroic, so indelible that it lives on in the hearts and minds of track fans for years to come. Such an event occurred at the 2016 FHSAA state track meet in Bradenton over the weekend.
With all the regional action taking place last week, the 400m final results from the Class 2A Region 3 meet might have slipped under the radar. Making her mark at Berkeley Prep in Tampa last Thursday, was Lake Wales sophomore Mariah Walker. Walker has come, seemingly out of nowhere, to take over the best 400m time in the state of Florida and the third-best time in the United States this season. Lined up against 2014 400m state champ Janae Caldwell of Spoto, Walker surged out in front.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. In by far the most exhilarating race of the entire Class 2A Region 3 meet at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Lake Wales sophomore Maiah Walker set down a US #3 by going 53.27. Want to check the time sheets? Go ahead, I had to look at them three or four times to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me.
Every track fan loves a good rivalry. Problem is, with just four short years in high school, rivalries rise and fall as quickly as prep athletes graduate and move on. In Tampa, there's a rivalry brewing that could stick this year and the next three years beyond. Enter Gaither freshman LaSarah Hargrove and Armwood freshman Ani Wells.
The Land O' Lakes Gator girls were going for their third straight district title. The Gator boys were going for their fifth. The Gator girls, so strong through the field events, had another huge day amassing 161 points to runner up Lecanto with 119. Sunlake was third with 102 and Pasco fourth with 94.
Team honors went to the host Warriors on Saturday at Steinbrenner High School in Tampa but the Wharton girls, even without Aria Tate send a resounding statement as they swept the 400m, going 1-2-3 and then took first and third in the 200m.