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TAMPA — The first two runners to finish in Friday’s Class 4A, Region 2 meet at Lake Park were from Orlando Dr. Phillips.
But it takes more than that to beat Plant.
The tandem of Julia Rodriguez (third) and Danielle Kissel (fourth) helped offset Dr. Phillips’ advantage, and their Panther teammates rendered it completely moot in capturing the girls championship by a comfortable margin of 36 points.
Placing all five scores in the top 18, Plant finished with 45 points.
“I thought we were going to win,” said coach Roy Harrison, who has guided the Panthers to eight state championships the past two decades. “We were just looking for improvement as we get ready for next week.”
Rodriguez and Kissel improved, both running personal bests. Rodriguez ran her race in 18 minutes, 47 seconds, while Kissel ran 18:53.
Both runners also beat Abigail Hagan and Sarah Miller from third-place Sarasota Riverview, who finished 1-2 at last week’s district meet.
But the other finishers proved to be the decisive ones: Katherine Ralston was seventh, Caroline Gibson 13th and Kara Halfaker 18th. Gibson and Halfaker outscored their Dr. Phillips counterparts 31-64.
Harrison said at state next weekend, the Panthers will have their hands full in an attempt for a ninth state title.
“Miami Lourdes …it’s going to be a battle.”
Wharton’s Abigail Ritter also advanced to state, finishing ninth in 19:12.
On the boys side, Plant and Newsome advanced. The Panthers (115 points) were third (behind winner Colonial and Dr. Phillips, who both had 84 points) and Thomas Christenberry would have set a school record by finishing in 15:50 had teammate Bo Nalsen not beaten him to it three seconds earlier. Newsome was sixth.
Chamberlain’s Max Del Monte (seventh in 15:42) and Jacob Covington (13th in 15:59) advanced as individuals, along with Countryside’s Ricy Brown and top local finisher Chase Sutton of Seminole, fourth in 15:29.