PALM HARBOR — The cross country course at John Chesnut Park is among the most challenging in the county.
The terrain is covered with patches of long, thick grass and mud, making it difficult to produce quality times.
So on Wednesday at the Cougar Invitational, Northeast’s Amanda Spring focused more on where she placed than how fast she ran. At the start of the race, Spring was part of a tightly bunched lead pack that charged out to get good positioning on a rough trek. She stayed with the group through the first mile before pulling away to win in 19 minutes, 46 seconds. It was the second big race Spring has won in two weeks.
“It’s probably one of the toughest courses I run all year,” Spring said. “The traction is rough and you end up getting some mud on you. But I like it because it is so challenging. I was looking more to just get ahead and place as high as I can to help build up our team score.”
The Vikings tied with Seminole for the lead in the team standings with 65 points. The Warhawks won the tiebreaker based on a higher placement by their No. 6 runner.
Palm Harbor University’s Brianna Paczynski and Sarah Raymond finished second and third, respectively. Others in the top five were Largo’s Alicia Konstantnovic and Seminole’s Olivia Suski.
In the boys field, Countryside’s Paul McKenna ran a race of calculation, letting about 10 runners break out to a wide lead then reeling them in by the second mile. By patiently stalking the lead pack, McKenna had the stamina to outkick the rest of the field and win in 16:30, an impressive time considering the difficulty of the course.
“I’m trying to run negative and not go out too fast at the start,” McKenna said. “Everyone wants to get out fast at the beginning and be in that lead pack, but then they start to die. That’s when I start coming back. It’s a tough strategy to see at the start of the race, but it pays off in the end.”
Seminole, despite graduating the majority of last year’s lineup, defended its team title, outscoring Osceola 43-60. Though they did not have runner finish in the top five, the Warhawks had their first four runners finish 6-9.
St. Petersburg’s Sam Chandler finished second overall, followed by Osceola’s Hunter McCann, Clearwater’s Stephan Sawayda and Osceola’s Tom Grzesiakowski rounded out the top five.
Seminole 65, Northeast 65, Palm Harbor University 73, Largo 114, St. Petersburg 131, Osceola 139, Boca Ciega 207, Clearwater 262, Dixie Hollins 285, Tarpon Springs 289, Pinellas Park 350, Gibbs 377
Spring (Ne) 19:46; Paczynski (PHU) 20:03; Raymond (PHU) 20:22; Konstantnovic (Lar) 20:40; Suski (Sem) 20:44; Kanstoroom (Ne) 20:46; Levine (Lar) 20:51, Waterman (SP) 20:54; Swallow (PHU) 21:04; Condon (Ne) 21:15; Whitney (Sem) 21:25; Silk (DH) 21:40; Hayduke (Sem) 21:46; Cappelli (Sem) 21:41; Siegel (EL) 21:56
Seminole 43, Osceola 60, St. Petersburg 106, Northeast 110, Palm Harbor U. 120, Countryside 149, East Lake 169, Clearwater 176, Dunedin 230, Lakewood 284, Boca Ciega 285, Dixie Hollins 302, Pinellas Park 355
McKenna (Cs) 16:30; Chandler (SP) 16:43; McCann (Osc) 17:15; Sawayda (Clw) 17:19; Grzesiakowski (Osc) 17:20; Marsh (Sem) 17:23; Weller (Sem) 17:29; Luker (Sem) 17:38; Hayduke (Sem) 17:40; Shontz (PHU) 17:40; Jimenez (Osc) 17:45; Spring (Ne) 17:49; Long (Sem) 17:49; Abernathy (SP) 17:51; Rudderham (Ne) 17:51