Class A cross country primer
When: Saturday. Class A girls race, 9:10 a.m.; boys, 10 a.m.
Where: Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee
Past success: One would have to turn the clock back to 2006 to find the last Tampa Bay individual champion (Plant's Brigithe Moreno).
Breaking down Class A: The area's best shot at an individual title comes with a dose of tragic irony.
Seffner Christian's Noah Perkins has the fourth-best mark in Florida, regardless of classification, a 15:20.8 from winning the Flrunners Invite in Titusville in September. Perkins' mark is also the best in Class A by 36 seconds. After placing fourth at the 2014 meet (16:09.2), the senior had a clear and a likely shot at the title.
But Perkins showed up at regionals in Lakeland in a walking boot. A stress injury in his foot flared up, keeping Perkins from competing. The Crusaders were fourth in the region as a team to advance, and Seffner Christian can substitute Perkins in for one of its other runners, but his time won't be officially recognized.
FHSAA bylaw 126.96.36.199.4 states: "A runner who qualifies in the top fifteen (15) and who also is a member of a qualifying team may be replaced in the team lineup (regional meet/Florida High School State Championship Series) by a substitute. The substitute, however, shall not be eligible for individual honors on any subsequent level of competition."
That opens the door for Shorecrest's Luke Peterson. Peterson won the region title in 16:48.62, but his 16:02.3 from the pres-state meet in Tallahassee is less than four seconds off the second-best time in Class A. It's not a reach to imagine Perkins winning Saturday, but Peterson taking second and getting the medal.
The Charger boys as a team are also interesting. They won the region title at Lakeland and were fourth last year at state. Their top four runners, Josh Miles, Justin Scoby, Casey Cureton and Peterson, have all returned and improved their marks. Josh Katz was Shorecrest's No. 5 runner at regionals, and the Chargers will need a big race from him if they want to press into the top three and possibly put a team title in reach.
Indian Rocks Christian sophomore Cooper LaBrant, Admiral Farragut Academy's Hunter McCann and Carrollwood Day's Jack Pironti were second, third and fourth, respectively, at regionals. They should all push the top-15 times at state.
On the girls side, it's all about Calvary Christian's Hannah Brookover. The senior was the Class A, Region 2 champion and by more than 17 seconds. A fourth-place finish at last year's state meet and an 18:13 from pre-state have her positioned as the third seed behind Rebecca Clark of Mount Dora Christian Academy and Shelby Smith of Holy Trinity.
Keep in mind though, that Brookover's 18:13 from pre-state beat both Clark (18:28.5) and Smart (18:45.2) when they raced head-to-head. Brookover has bigger fish to fry beyond Saturday. She is considering running in the Footlocker Southeast Regional in North Carolina, but adding a state title to her resume would be a fitting conclusion to her high school career.
The Calvary girls' top three, including Brookover, Stephanie Fries and Emily Curran, are solid. If they can get breakout performances from their four and five runners, they should break into the top 10 team scores.
The area rivalry between Tampa Prep freshman Josie Garba and Shorecrest junior Olivia Rovin should push the two into the top 15, if not the top 10. Garba and Rovin both have multiple sub 20-minute marks from this season, but they'll both have to get close to 19:30s to crack the top 10.