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LARGO — Countryside’s Paul McKenna usually takes a more conservative approach in races, preferring to stalk the front-runners before reeling them in.
Wednesday, McKenna adopted more of a go-for-gusto philosophy, sprinting to the lead and trying to keep that frenetic pace as long as he could.
It was a different tactic, but the same result as McKenna defeated his opponents by winning the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet in 16 minutes, 18 seconds. McKenna’s time was 23 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, St. Petersburg’s Sam Chandler.
“I basically experimented with something and went out as fast as I could,” McKenna said. “It tried to keep that pace as long as I could before dying. Once I hit the cement, I picked it up even more.”
McKenna was one second off his time at the state meet last year.
“I wanted to break 16 minutes, but I think that’s coming in the next few weeks,” he said.
The rest of the boys was a battle between Osceola and Seminole for the team title. The Warriors’ Hunter McCann (17:04), Tom Grzesiakowski (17:13) and Abimael Jimenez (17:24) finished 3-4-5. They were followed by a pack of Warhawk runners that included Josh Luker (17:30), Sam Weller (17:33), Lorenzo Long (17:43) and Iain Marsh (17:46), who finished 6-7-8-9.
By having three of the top runners, Osceola was able to hold off Seminole 39-43.
As expected, Northeast’s Amanda Spring won the girls race, surging ahead and building a sizeable lead with each mile. She won her first conference title in 19:40, 31 seconds ahead of Largo’s Marina Levine.
“I would have liked to have a better time, but I wasn’t really pushed that much in the race,” Spring said. “But overall I’m happy. This was my goal to win conference and help my team out as much as possible.”
Palm Harbor University, which got a boost with the return of several runners from injuries and sickness, won the girls title, beating Seminole 74-81. The Hurricanes were led by Brianna Paczynski, who took fourth in 20:41, and Sarah Raymond, who was sixth in 20:52.
St. Petersburg’s Erin Waterman was third (20:11) and Seminole’s Olivia Suski fifth (20:50).
PCAC Meet at Taylor Park
Team scores: Osceola 39, Seminole 43, Northeast 128, St. Petersburg 131, Countryside 146, Palm Harbor University 157, East Lake 178, Boca Ciega 237, Clearwater 240, Dixie Hollins 252, Lakewood 273, Largo 280, Dunedin 338, Pinellas Park 424
Individuals: McKenna (Cs) 16:18, Chandler (SP) 16:41, McCann (Osc) 17:04, Grzesiakowski (Osc) 17:13, Jiminez (Osc) 17:24, Luker (Sem) 17:30, Weller (Sem) 17:33, Long (Sem) 17:43, Marsh (Sem) 17:46, Stenser (Ne) 17:46, Cape (Osc) 17:50, Sawayda (Clw) 17:54, Hayduke (Sem) 17:57, Noukhal (DH) 18:04, Abernathy (SP) 18:06
Team scores: Palm Harbor U. 74, Seminole 81, Largo 93, Osceola 114, Northeast 140, St. Petersburg 141, Boca Ciega 142, East Lake 209, Clearwater 218, Tarpon Springs 307, Pinellas Park 342
Individuals: Spring (Ne) 19:40, Levine (Lar) 20:11, Waterman (SP) 20:11, Paczynski (PHU) 20:41, Suski (Sem) 20:50, Raymond (PHU) 20:52, Abu-Rumann (Osc) 20:58, Stevens (BC) 21:00, Konstantinovic (Lar) 21:06, Swallow (PHU) 21:07, Siegel (EL) 21:16, Silk (DH) 21:24, Avers (Clw) 21:24, Gale (Sem) 21:38, Condon (Ne) 21:42