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LUTZ — Academy of the Holy Names junior Claire Snyder arrived to defend her Hillsborough County cross country title Friday morning with chest congestion and minimal sleep, courtesy of a throbbing headache the night before.
Plant senior Julia Rodriguez trumped Snyder's migraine and mucus buildup with mono, diagnosed only last week.
Yet on a warm morning, on the dew-slicked grass and dirt paths of Lake Park, the two friendly rivals who began the race under the weather were the only two to finish it under 19:30.
Overtaken by Rodriguez on the back stretch, Snyder, a Tampa Prep transfer, reassumed the lead in the final 400 meters to capture her second consecutive title in 19:21.80. Rodriguez, green-lighted for the race by her doctors, misread the finish line and crossed it in 19:28.10.
"I heard (Rodriguez) was in pain," said Snyder, who estimates she was 75 percent for the race. "She was like, whimpering a little bit. I was like, 'I feel the same way,' but I just had to keep pushing it because I did not want to lose."
That riveting final stretch highlighted this true county championship meet, which attracted every Hillsborough program — public and private — to Lutz on a morning that got muggier as the sun climbed. Full results can be found here.
Despite Rodriguez's illness and the last-minute withdrawal of returning state medalist Scarlett Fox (food poisoning), reigning two-time Class 4A state champ Plant still defended its title with 28 points. The Panthers' top five runners all placed in the top 11.
Rodriguez, urged by doctors and Coach Roy Harrison to go easy, said she needed this race to be eligible for the district meet in two weeks. State rules require runners to compete in at least four regular season meets to qualify for the postseason.
"I didn't really know where the finish was, which is not a good tactical error," Rodriguez said. "Everyone was telling me to go, so I went, and then I gave everything I had and I just died, because I had 400 (meters) still to go and didn't notice."
Also conquering fatigue and flu-like symptoms were Steinbrenner's boys, who put three runners in the top eight to break Plant's stranglehold on the team title. The Warriors' 56 points were three fewer than the Panthers, who had three runners in the top 11.
Sickles senior Abdin Fator overtook Warriors senior Matt Magee (pictured, right) with roughly 10,000 meters remaining to win his fifth race of the season (16:15.70). Magee eventually finished third (16:29.40) behind Newsome senior Lars Benner (16:19.30).
Warriors senior Tyler Lima (sixth), twin brother Zach Lima (19th) and senior Chris Cerreta (22nd) all entered the race with lingering flu symptoms, Tyler Lima said.
"We knew it was going to be a tough race, but Tanner (Biles, eighth place) really stood out and ran well," said Tyler Lima (pictured, left). "So did Matt up front. He lost it in the end but he still came in third and me sixth. It gave us enough cushion where we could beat Plant."
Hillsborough County Championships
(at Lake Park, Lutz)
Boys Individual: Abdin Fator, Sickles 16:15.70; Lars Benner, Newsome 16:19.30; Matt Magee, Steinbrenner 16:29.40; Tim O'Loughlin, Jesuit 16:38.30; Josh Keenan, Seffner Christian 16:43.20; Tyler Lima, Steinbrenner 16:44.30; Travis Lucas, Plant 16:46.80; Tanner Biles, Steinbrenner 16:53.10; Justin Martinez, Newsome 16:55.20; Daniel Dean, Middleton 17:06.80
Boys Team (top 10): Steinbrenner 56, Plant 59, Jesuit 110, Sickles 122, Robinson 150, Berkeley Prep 175, Bloomingdale 176, Newsome 191, Chamberlain 273, Seffner Christian 291
Girls Individual: Claire Snyder, Academy of the Holy Names 19:21.80; Julia Rodriguez, Plant 19:28.10; Anna Montgomery, Plant 19:31.40; Brianna Jackson, Newsome 19:36.90; Caroline Gibson, Plant 19:57.70; Stephanie Cajas, Newsome 20:06.80; Bailey Sullivan, Plant 20:14.20; Annie Tedesco, Freedom 20:17.50; Emily Zwijacz, Newsome 20:22.30; Sneha Sathish, King 20:26.00
Girls Team (top 10): Plant 28, Newsome 95, Freedom 129, Sickles 135, Berkeley Prep 149, Robinson 156, Bloomingdale 230, Chamberlain 236, Wharton 253, Academy of the Holy Names 254