Shorecrest's boys lock up region cross country crown
LAKELAND — Three different cross country regions converged at Holloway Park on Friday morning.
If times were not blazing, it was due to the off-road course that took a grass incline out of the staring gates. Another hill at the 1-mile mark then gave way to sand. Runners wound along the trails in the park before emerging close to the 3-mile mark, then took a grass runway down a dry creek bed and turned 180 degrees for a 25-meter grass straightaway for the finish.
Pinellas squads shone brightly. The Shorecrest boys team, which won a district title, roared to the A-2 crown with 96 points. Indian Rocks Christian was a distant second with 137. Seffner Christian’s Noah Perkins, the top seed in the race, was spotted in a walking boot and did not race. It kicked open the door for a Pinellas runner to snatch the title.
Shorecrest’s Luke Peterson got out in front early as Admiral Farragut’s Hunter McCann took up third, coming into the first mile. At the 3-mile mark, Peterson took a commanding lead on the field and IRC’s Cooper LaBrant moved up into second.
Peterson broke the tape at 16:48.62 with LaBrant in second at 17:02.42. McCann held on for third at 17:14.57, for the Pinellas 1-2-3 sweep.
“I never want to win because another guy is injured,” Peterson said. “But I was excited knowing I had a chance to win and if I put up a solid effort, we were going to see what I could do.”
Peterson was sapped by the grueling course but had the best time in his career at Holloway.
“From the very start (the course) was tough,” Peterson said. “It makes states feel easier after running here.”
LaBrant ran the second-fastest time in his career.
“I was in about 10th after the first mile. I knew I had to pick guys off because my kick is not the best,” LaBrant said. “Then I saw Luke and I thought if I can hang with him in sight, it would be a great time.”
In the girls Class A race, Calvary Christian’s Hannah Brookover (18:43.63) made sure that she punched her ticket to state as the region champion, getting out fast. After the 1-mile mark, Brookover turned it on and had 10 seconds on the field coming out at the 3-mile mark.
“I don’t notice the hills all that much; I’ve been on some hilly courses this year,” Brookover said. “… I’m excited for states where I hope to hit my best time.”
In a rematch of the early-season IRC Open, Tampa Prep freshman Josie Garba battled Shorecrest’s Olivia Rovin for fourth. Even with the longer-legged Rovin on her heels, Garba held on to finish in 20:07.0 and Rovin at 20:08.03.
“I was a little worried she’d catch me but I felt great today and I knew I wasn’t going to let her catch me,” Garba said.
The Calvary girls qualified as a team in fourth (125) and IRC girls got in at fifth (138). Oak Hall won with 59 points.
The 3A races went off as the day was heating up. The competition was heating up as well. The district and PCAC champion Osceola girls took second (89) behind a sizzling Fort Myers team (65). Led by a fifth-place finish by Emma Grantges (19:38.91) and 13th-place finish from Fatima Abu-Rumman (20:23.74), the Osceola girls continued their streak into the state finals next weekend.
“It’s the same thing we’ve done all year,” Osceola coach Peter Eagleson said. “Team effort got it done.”
Eagleson pointed out Samantha Corsini’s finish in 28th after having missed districts and stepping into the scoring for the Warriors on Friday.
East Lake’s Jennifer Lima rallied from her PCAC and district meets to clip all the other county competition and take fourth overall in 19:37.51. Clearwater’s Jordyn Avers was sixth (20:01.4).
“I thought (Grantges) was going to get me at the end but I had enough in me to beat her,” said Lima, who only had two soccer matches this week as opposed to the three leading up to districts.
The East Lake girls took fifth as a team with 179 points and district champion King missed the sixth qualifying spot by just two points.
On the boys side, East Lake took fourth with 129 points, led by James Hasell’s 17:22.35 (12th), marking the first time both Eagle squads made the state meet. Individually, Clearwater’s Sean Heera was ninth (17:17.93), Largo’s Jackson Gillette took 11th (17:21.39) and Osceola’s Abimael Jimenez (17:25.17) grabbed the final qualifying spot at 15th. Jimenez made a return trip to state, his first since his freshman season, a reality. The Osceola boys also qualified as a team in sixth (172).
In Class 4A, Palm Harbor University's Juliana Barbaccia finished seventh in 20:23.49.