TAMPA — When veteran Countryside boys coach Eileen Givens addressed her athletes this week, quality was the keyword. To win a region title, she told the Cougars, no one could take the night off.
On a sweltering Wednesday in west Tampa, quality arrived in bulk. As a result, the Cougars are region champ for the second consecutive season and third time in four years.
Countryside won three events and got critical top-four finishes in several others to capture the Class 4A-2 crown at Leto’s Mahin-Hoffman Stadium. The Cougars’ 80 points were 141/2 more than runnerup St. Petersburg.
“The thing we talked about in our meeting this week was, everybody had to place high,” Givens said. “It was basically, you couldn’t place below fourth in order for us to pull it out. … They did what they were supposed to do.”
Capping the night was a triumph by the 4x400-meter relay team — Wylan Bernitt, Jordan Rossi, Ricy Brown and Derek Messmore — which finished in a season-best 3:20.32 to edge meet favorite Newsome. Bernitt also won the 300 hurdles; Brown won the 800.
Other priceless points came from Denzel Thompson, who set personal records while placing second in the high jump (6-2) and third in the triple jump (45-9.5). Messmore earned a second-place finish in the 400.
“We all brought it today,” Bernitt said.
St. Petersburg was led by its 4x100 relay team of Rashad Lewis, Marquel Davis, David Jones and Darian Bentley, which prevailed in 42.45 seconds. Cody Pogorelc won the 110 hurdles in a personal-best time (14.79).
Elsewhere, Pinellas Park senior Eddie Galan, competing with a new pole acquired only Saturday, pulled off a mild upset with a school-record 15-foot effort to win the boys pole vault. Before getting the new pole, Galan never had cleared that height in a meet or practice.