Plant boys, Wharton girls prevail in county cross country meet
New county champions stormed Al Lopez Park in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon.
In a staggering show of parity, the boys title was decided by just one point with Plant edging Steinbrenner 91-92 on Wednesday. Sickles, last year's county champion, was third with 104 and Wharton boys edged Newsome for fourth 111-112.
For Plant, it was Quasan Markowski clipping Durant's Haftom Fliegelman at the line for third in 16:12.2 with Fliegelman settling for fourth at 16:13.1.
"That was the whole race right there," Panther boys coach Bryan Garcia said. "Everywhere was the whole race. We had huge days from our No. 2 and our No. 4 (Markowski and Jackson Samartian). We ran well but everyone ran well, the top five were all 20 points apart and the top four are our district."
The win was a great boost for a rising Panther squad but it's little comfort for the elite Class 4A, District 6 that will battle next Thursday at Al Lopez.
"We're doing real well but we still might not even make it through districts," Garcia said.
The boys race was led by the Tampa Bay area's top runner, Noah Perkins of Seffner Christian. Perkins set out early and led a pack of four that included Sickles' Paris Williams, Plant's Markowski and Rob Leverone and Fliegelman. Into the second lap, Perkins built a 20-second lead on that group as they jockeyed for position.
Perkins put more than 35 seconds on the trailing group as he entered the final lap and Fliegelman moved into second with Williams trailing and Markowski in fourth. Coming down the home stretch it was Perkins across in 15:36.3 with Williams in second at 16:09.5.
"I knew this race would have Perkins and I wasn't ready to pace with him," said Williams who set his season best on Tuesday. "At the 2-mile mark, I tried to peel away and get enough distance to outlast their kicks."
Perkins not only set down Mark Parrish's 2010 mark of 15:53.0, he became the first runner from a private school to win the full county meet since Andy Biladeau of Jesuit in 2004.
"My plan was to get out faster and put it away early," Perkins said.
The girls race went off first and with sophomore sensation Bailey Hertenstein on hand, there was little doubt who was going to win. Hertenstein led out with Chamberlain's Maggie Parrish, the 2014 county champion, for the first mile but started to separate pretty quickly.
By the end of the first loop, Hertenstein had put 12 seconds on Parrish with Tampa Prep freshman Josie Garba pulling up third place. Into the final lap, Hertenstein had more than 30 seconds on the field as the top three worked out into the same order with Hertenstein first in 18:43.9, Parrish second in 19:38.7, then Garba third in 19:50.2.
"We've known each other for a little while," Hertenstein said of Parrish. "She definitely pushed the pace in the first mile."
Garba was the girls champion among private schools.
"I was really happy about it. I wanted to break 19 minutes and Maggie (Parrish) was pushing the pace with Bailey (Hertenstein)," Garba said.
Then the team battle took over. Wharton's Alisha Deschenes took fourth (20:06.7) with teammate Rania Samhouri in sixth (20:11.8). Wharton (44) edged Plant for the team title (65). Newsome was not far behind at 71.
"At the beginning of the year, we got together and set goals we wanted to accomplish and this (county meet) was one of them," Wharton coach Anthony Triana said. "This is a big step forward to where we want to be. We knew it was within reach."
Even Triana is looking at the 4A-6 district meet as a potential trap as his squad will go against two of the top five teams from the county and the Pasco County runners up in Wiregrass Ranch.
"We're going to have a target on our backs," Triana said. "And trying to outcoach a 10-time state champion (Plant's Roy Harrison) is brutal by itself."