TAMPA — His next scheduled performance was less than two hours away, and Jack Rogers had no soundtrack.
For this lanky Robinson junior, listening to the blues-based hard-rock anthems of AC/DC had become as much of a prerace ritual as lacing his shoes. But he found his iPod on the fritz as the West Hillsborough Invitational drew near.
“I was like, ‘I don’t have any (AC/DC) on my iPod,’ ” said teammate Blake Stanford, who drove Rogers to the meet in his 2007 Saturn Ion. “And then we flipped through the (radio) channels.”
That’s when fate reared its head. Or more specifically, banged it.
On a classic rock station, an AC/DC twin bill — Shoot to Thrill and Hell’s Bells — was blaring. Shortly thereafter, Rogers was outkicking Plant’s Jack Guyton down the final grassy stretch to narrowly win the boys race in 17 minutes, 6.53 seconds.
“You can’t find a better song to pump you up; AC/DC’s the best,” said Rogers, fifth in the 800 meters at last spring’s Class 2A state meet. “It was perfect.”
While Rogers sought music, others longed for a map on this searing September afternoon. A redesigned course had several competitors losing their way among the stretches of thick grass, trees and gravel around Al Lopez Park.
Sickles junior Abigail Grant won the girls race in a time (21:01.46) made deceptively slower by some rough navigation. Grant said an errant turn into trees by some runners led to a dead end; at another juncture, she crossed the wrong bridge.
“We took three wrong turns,” said Grant, who nonetheless led essentially wire to wire and finished roughly 40 meters ahead of runnerup Maddy Hull of Robinson (21:08.56). “It was crazy.”
The Knights girls, seeking the program’s first district title this season, placed five runners in the top 18 to capture the team crown (41). Private school power Academy of the Holy Names didn’t compete, and local heavyweight Plant didn’t run its varsity girls.
In the boys race, Plant put four runners in the top 10 for 40 points, giving new coach Bryan Garcia his first team victory.
West Hillsborough Invitational at Al Lopez Park
Boys team results: Plant (P) 40, Robinson (R) 50, Sickles (Si) 65, Steinbrenner (St) 88, Jefferson (J) 135, Alonso (A) 189, Hillsborough (H) 195, Leto (L) 219, Gaither (G) 234
Individuals: Jack Rogers (R) 17:06.53, Jack Guyton (P) 17:06.97, Blake Stanford (R) 17:16.39, James Zentmeyer (Si) 17:43.32, Paris Williams (Si) 17:44.40, Daniel Erickson (J) 17:46.28, Evan Collura (P) 18:00.86, Manuel Tejeda (R) 18:07.23, Drew Beekman (P) 18:14.32, Carlos Andino (P) 18:17.19
Girls team results: Robinson (R) 41, Steinbrenner (St) 46, Plant (P) 68, Sickles (Si) 127, Hillsborough (H) 127
Individuals: Abigail Grant (Si) 21:01.46, Maddy Hull (R) 21:08.56, Julia DeYoung (R) 22:01.14, Rachel Cazares (G) 22:43.39, Anderson Dibble (St) 22:46.19, Barbara Feldhaus (St) 22:54.05, Isabel Hanewicz (R) 22:55.21, Julianna Ferguson (P) 22:58.10, Jacqueline Parker (P) 23:02.33, Brieanna Rekow (St) 23:04.10