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SARASOTA — Apparently, one person’s physical torment is another’s bliss.
Take Seminole senior Jacob Hudak, who found himself doubled over, heaving in a desperate quest for oxygen, and wiping at a strand of saliva dangling from his lips Saturday morning.
“It feels immaculate,” Hudak said moments after winning the Class 4A, Region 2 title with a furious final kick on a grassy course encircling McIntosh Middle School. “I love it.”
On a glorious morning by any runner’s standards, Hudak stayed with Plant senior Travis Christenberry and Riverview senior Michael Babinec before pulling away in the final 1,000 meters to prevail in 16:12.10.
It capped a splendid morning for the Warhawks boys and girls, who placed second and fourth, respectively, to earn berths in next Saturday’s state meet in Dade City. The girls finished fourth behind top-15 finishers Rachael Hayduke and Jasmine Whitney.
“I thought they competed about as well as they could,” coach Bruce Calhoun said of his girls. “At first, we didn’t expect them to do much, so they’ve done far more than we thought they could accomplish.”
Hudak, a 5-foot-11, 140-pound senior, said his strategy — stay with the leaders until making a late move — worked just he thought. So did the objective of St. Petersburg sophomore Alex Eaton, the District 5 girls champion who has battled a cold all week.
Eaton finished third (19:20.20), the only runner not from Plant High to place in the top seven.
“It was a pretty slow course and I’ve been sick all week long, so I just wanted to qualify for states,” said Eaton, whose team placed fifth in the 12-team field. “So it was all right.”
On the boys side, Countryside snuck into states with a sixth-place finish (182), five spots ahead of seventh-place St. Petersburg.
Seminole’s runnerup effort was fueled by Hudak and fellow top-15 finishers Keegan Flynn (seventh), Nicholas Homme (12th) and Michael Urbanski (14th). Palm Harbor University’s Sarah Raymond and Luke Buschman earned individual state berths with 10th-place efforts.