MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
A Pasco County school hasn’t won a cross country team championship since Ridgewood took the boys Class 3A state title in 1999.
The Wiregrass Ranch boys and girls, however, have a legitimate chance of winning Saturday.
After the boys’ overwhelming performance at regionals in which they won by 77 points, the Bulls are in the best position to make a run at the title. They haven’t been beaten since the first week of the season when they placed sixth at the FACA Invitational, a meet that coach
Chris Loth estimated had 10 of the best cross country teams in the state.
“We haven’t lost in two and a half months,” Loth said. “There’s no other team in Class 3A that’s going to be able to say that.”
Since that sixth-place finish, the Bulls have trampled the competition and haven’t been tested in the postseason.
“The confidence is there,” Loth said. “The guys are in the best shape of the year, probably the best shape of their life.”
Similarly, the girls were untouchable at the regionals, recording a 66-point margin of victory.
A repeat performance Saturday would give the Bulls a reasonable shot at capturing the first girls team title on the North Suncoast.
But the time is now. Seniors comprise a majority of both rosters.
“The window isn’t going to be closed, but we’re going to have to work hard to reopen it next year,” Loth said. “This is a senior-laden team that has put in the miles and is primed and peaked.”
When/where: Saturday, Little Everglades Ranch, Dade City
Admission: $8; children 6 and younger are free
Parking: $7 per vehicle
Schedule: Class 3A girls, 9:30 a.m.; Class 2A boys, 9:55 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 10:20 a.m.
Class 3A girls
Wiregrass Ranch (Nikita Shah, Ariel Grey, Marissa Tomei, Elise Cedre, Kelsey Sturman, Chelsea Ginn-Davis, Taylor Hixson): Bulls have five out of seven runners back from the team that placed sixth at state a year ago.
Gulf (Angela Way, Renne Patnode, Ajla Spijodic, Natalie Smith, Brooke Rossi, Mia Savino, Rachael Patnode): Bucs placed fourth at regionals behind top-30 performances from Way (20:29), Renee Patnode (21:17) and Spijodic (21:18).
Springstead (Mikayla Bogulski, Maria Garcia, Kailey Genrich, Natasha Haglund, Devon Rennie): The lone Hernando County team still alive, Springstead was led by Bogulski, who ran 20:24 to place 16th, and Garcia, 22nd in 20:48, at regionals.
Kelli Williams, Mitchell: Williams had the fastest time of any North Suncoast girl at regionals, posting 18:42 to place third.
Alyssa Baladad, Ridgewood: Senior just made the state cut, placing 14th at regionals in 20:11.
Class 3A boys
Wiregrass Ranch (Josh Reilly, Ryan Pulsifer, Ermias Bireda, Sam Hippely, Tyler Matera, Logan Selzer, Ian Cassette): Bulls have continually improved each year at state, finishing sixth last season after placing eighth in 2008.
Land O’Lakes (Hendrix Lafontant, Travis Nichols, Jacob Morken, Dillon Oergel, Robert Davidson, Christopher Dotson, Tyler MacDonald): Lafontant (16:35), Nichols (16:52), Morken (16:58) and Oergel (17:06) all had top-25 finishes at regionals.
Mitchell (Nicholas Kostakis, Colby Sullivan, Troy Shea, Samuel Bartz, Ryan Jerothe, Sean Black, Daniel Boyko): Led by Kostakis’ 10th-place finish, the Mustangs grabbed the final qualifying spot.
Kenneth Fessel, Sunlake: Junior was 77th at state a year ago after crossing the finish in 17:20.
Class 2A boys
Jesse Balogh, Hernando: Balogh (17:03) was just 32 seconds behind the leader at regionals and finished in fifth.
Argishti Gazari, Anclote: Technically, Gazari is the Sharks’ first state qualifier for cross country after beating teammate Spencer Guerette to the line at regionals.
Spencer Guerette, Anclote: Ran 17:13 to place ninth at regionals and join Gazari at states.
Carson Brock, Pasco: Followed his seventh-place finish at districts with a 10th-place showing at regionals.
Anthony Plourde, Pasco: Plourde, who won a district title this year, was 40th at state a year ago.