LUTZ — The mild temperatures, modest wind and cloudless sky Friday at Lake Park provided the ideal setting for a run.
Not to mention a resurgence.
On a day that Sickles standouts Abdin Fator and Abby Grant earned convincing wins in the boys and girls races, respectively, at the Class 3A, District 8 meet, the Gryphons seemed equally giddy about the runnerup effort of senior Sarah Hartman.
Slowed by a stress fracture in her right arch most of the season, the two-time district champ posted a season-best effort (20:39.30) to help Sickles capture the program’s first girls team district title (27 points).
“Sarah’s back,” Gryphons coach Dave “Ritt” Rittenour proclaimed.
“I felt really good,” Hartman said. “You know when you’re out of shape and your lungs kind of burn? I was feeling that the whole time. It’s just that I’m not in shape because I had to take five weeks off, so I lost everything.”
Also evoking grins in the Sickles camp was Grant, a 5-foot-2 sophomore who essentially led wire to wire, finishing the course of grass and wooded dirt trails in 20:29.10.
“I’m excited,” Grant said. “I didn’t go out as hard as I could, but I gradually sped up over time and kept up my pace after the second mile.”
The top three girls teams and top four boys teams, as well as the top 13 individuals in each race, qualified for next week’s Region 2 meet in Lecanto. Four boys teams advanced, per FHSAA rules, because its field featured at least seven teams. The girls race had only six.
Fator won his sixth race of the year in 17:09.20, roughly eight seconds ahead of a pack of five Steinbrenner runners, which clearly employed a deliberate pace to save something for the region meet.
“I’m kind of glad, too,” Fator said, “because I was a little sore today.”
Steinbrenner’s 20 points were only five more than the lowest a team can score in a race. The quintet of Warriors — Tanner Biles, Tyler Lima, Chris Cerreta, Matt Magee and Zach Lima — finished within four-tenths of a second of one another.
Class 2A, District 10: At Oscar Scherer Park in Venice, Lakewood’s boys finished second (70 points) behind Hardee (48). The Spartans got top-15 finishes from DeVontae Persha (fourth, 18:32.76) and Jason Scott (11th, 19:41.30). Spoto’s Antwau Whittington was sixth in 19:00.54. Lehigh’s Christian Vazquez was the top boys runner (16:58.35).
For the girls, no local team placed in the top three but there were key individual performances from Spoto’s Kela Nelson, who finished second in 23:33.45 and Lakewood’s Shandra Gordon, sixth in 24:27.42. Bradenton Southeast won the meet, behind individual champion Zoe Hawkins-Smyk (23:27.07).
3A-8 at Lake Park, Lutz
Team: Steinbrenner 20, Sickles 43, Chamberlain 73, Jefferson 151, King 158, Hillsborough 167, Leto 173, Gaither 175
Individual (top 13): Fator (Sic) 17:09.20, Biles (Ste) 17:17.00, T. Lima (Ste) 17:17.10, Cerreta (Ste) 17:17.20, Magee (Ste) 17:17.30, Z. Lima (Ste) 17:17.40, Piatt (Sic) 17:24.70, Zentmeyer (Sic) 17:32.40, Erickson (Jef) 17:45.00, Purvis (Cha) 17:56.30, Navas (King) 17:57.90, Wise (Cha) 18:01.00, Maldonado (Sic) 18:03.10
Team: Sickles 27, King 67, Chamberlain 80, Steinbrenner 97, Hillsborough 116, Gaither 142
Individual (top 13): Grant (Sic) 20:29.10, Hartman (Sic) 20:39.30, Cazares (Gai) 20:39.50, Parrish (Cha) 20:49.30, Sathish (King) 21:01.90, Ozual (King) 21:19.40, Glavan (Sic) 21:23.40, Mogg (Sic) 21:26.60, Mayer (Sic) 21:27.60, Garris (Ste) 21:27.90, Schonder (Cha) 21:28.40, Amed (Sic) 21:41.80, Richmond (Sic) 21:42.00