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ESTERO — Estero Community Park possessed all the elements of an obstacle course Friday morning. There was a steep, two-story hill, dozens of yards of beach volleyball sand, hairpin turns and resident juggernaut Estero High.
On a breezy, partly sunny morning, the Academy of the Holy Names girls and Berkeley Prep’s boys successfully navigated it all — except the home team.
Both local squads finished second to lead the Hillsborough County contingent at the Class 2A, Region 3 meet — one of three regionals staged on the site Friday morning.
“It’s the best we could’ve done,” AHN coach Ray Rodriguez said. “Estero, I mean, they’re just a couple of classes above us.”
Estero’s 17 team points were only two more than the minimum possible score. The only runner keeping the Wildcats from sweeping the race’s first six spots: Jaguars eighth-grader Colleen Doherty, who placed fourth (20:01.32).
“It was pretty tough,” said Doherty, the District 5 champion. “The sand and the hills — the sand was pretty ugly.”
Jaguars senior Marisa Petrick (15th in 21:27.48) was her team’s No. 2 finisher, but Rodriguez singled out freshman Natalie Hahn, who overtook a handful of runners just before hitting the beach sand and went on to place 17th (21:34.29).
“I think that was almost the breaking point, the key to finishing the way we did,” Rodriguez said. “That really got us in position to catch (third-place) Immokalee, because Immokalee was looking really good in the middle of the race.”
Steinbrenner sophomore Lauren Garris, who placed seventh (20:24.51) and led her team to a fifth-place finish, was the only other non-Estero runner in the top eight.
Berkeley’s girls placed sixth to slip into the state meet, while Strawberry Crest’s Trixi Menge (11th in 20:53.28) and Robinson freshman Julia DeYoung (12th in 21:03.05) earned individual state berths.
Middleton senior Amber Brooks, the District 5 runner-up, fell out early in the race with leg and arm cramps. Paramedics were summoned, but Brooks was treated on scene and later said she was fine.
Berkeley’s boys, meantime, atoned for last week’s district defeat to second-year Steinbrenner by placing three runners in the top 18. The Bucs’ 86 points were 21 more than third-place Jesuit. Steinbrenner (116) was fourth.
Leading the Buccaneers was seventh-place junior Alex Main (17:00.49), who overtook No. 1 Berkeley runner Michael Rosenbach (eighth in 17:06.95) at roughly the three-mile mark. Jesuit senior Blake Lopez was the county’s top individual finisher, placing fourth (16:35.37).
“Last week we were pretty unhappy about (Steinbrenner’s win),” Main said. “We didn’t expect them to come out of nowhere like that; they ran a really good race. I think that really kind of motivated us.”
Robinson finished seventh with 148 points, four shy of sixth-place Immokalee. Another Knights near-miss occurred individually, with senior Michael Shuey finishing 16th (17:27.84), 11 seconds behind junior teammate Brian Sharp.
The St. Petersburg Catholic girls and boys both placed 12th, with no Barons runner placing in the top 15.