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TAMPA — On a calm, overcast Thursday afternoon, Plant continued its cross country dominance at the Class 4A, District 6 meet at Al Lopez Park. The Panther girls swept the top six spots, as did the boys. Only Bloomingdale junior Andrew LeBlanc broke up either Panther pack and then just separating Plant boys sixth and eighth runners.
“I was pretty sure they would go out slow and that’s exactly what the first five did,” LeBlanc said. “I just tried to stick with them the best I could.”
LeBlanc (16 minutes, 47 seconds) knocked 12 seconds off his personal record and helped his team secure runnerup. The Bulls girls made regionals, placing fourth. Freedom’s girls took second, and qualified with a third-place finish on the boys side.
“We’re only losing one of our top six runners this year,” Patriots coach Dwight Smith said. “With the top five we have going into next year, I feel like we can average in the 19’s (minutes).”
Thursday was all Panthers.
The girls pack stayed back through the first mile, letting Wharton junior Mariah Henderson lead the way. By the second mile, the first five of the Panther pack had taken an eight-second lead over Henderson. By the third mile, the whole Panther pack had moved into the lead.
Senior Scarlett Fox finished first in 19:18. The rest of the Panthers finished within five seconds of each other. Senior Emory Pitisci (19:19) finished third and knocked nearly a minute off her personal best.
The Plant boys had seniors Bryce Weaver (16:18) and Travis Lucas (16:22) out in front after the first mile. By the second, Weaver had taken a seven-second lead. By the third mile, five Panthers led the final push, and senior Anatoly Samaha (16:46) closed the gap to take the sixth spot.
Class 4A, District 7: Host Newsome swept the team titles.
The Wolves’ boys won behind top-15 performances from Lars Benner (first, 16:26), Justin Martinez (second, 17:06), Maurice Bolduc (seventh, 17:30) and Aaron Harper (15th, 17:59). Riverview’s Justin Walters (10th, 17:46) and Hunter Horstman (13th, 17:55), and Durant’s Daniel Butler (11th, 17:46) also ran well.
For the girls, Newsome had the top three runners: Brianna Jackson (19:39), Stephanie Cajas (19:48) and Emily Zwijacz (20:10).
Teammates Brianna Theilig (ninth, 21:40) and Delsie Borgen (12th, 21:47), as well as Riverview’s Brianna Simoni (sixth, 21:21) finished in the top 15.