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LARGO — As the sun started to set on humid day at Thursday’s Bay Conference meet, the boys field hung onto the hope that Northside Christian’s Mario Ojeda could not possibly keep up the blistering pace he helped set from the race’s very first steps.
But one by one, those hopes melted in the heat, something Ojeda never did. He pulled away from his challengers within the first mile and charged into the backstretch alone, not just winning his individual title in 17 minutes, 32 seconds but blazing a path for his teammates to follow.
It was an express of Mustang runners at the finish with Joe Chapman taking second in 17:46, Matthew Montanari third in 17:48 and Kyle Riffe fifth in 18:10.
That was more than enough for Northside to win its first conference boys team title with an impressive score of 24 points, 26 ahead of Shorecrest.
“I was looking to go out pretty hard,” Ojeda said. “I wanted to create space and not leave any room for error.”
The battle for second was close as Chapman and Montanari stayed shoulder to shoulder through most of the race and finished within two seconds of each other.
“We just tried to keep Mario within sight the whole race,” Chapman said.
Shorecrest’s Caelum Schandle broke up the pack of Mustang runners by finishing fourth in 18:06.
In the girls race, Northside Christian’s Katelyn Greenleaf won her fourth straight conference title in 19:37. But Keswick Christian won the team title, outscoring Indian Rocks Christian 33-51.
The Crusaders had three runners in the top six, including Hannah Palm (20:47) and Ellie Palm (20:53), second and third, respectively. The Golden Eagles Bobbi LaBrant was fourth in 20:57 and Rachel Kistemaker was fifth in 21:05.