Twelve hours after their football team's exhilarating, come-from-behind win at Robinson, the Plant boys and girls cross country teams staged their own road victories, sans the rally caps.
The Panthers repeated as Class 4A, Region 2 champions on a warm morning at Sarasota's McIntosh Middle School. The girls, seeking their third consecutive state title, put five runners in the top nine to finish with 31 points, 24 ahead of runner-up Newsome. The boys (42 points) put their quintent in the top 15 for a 50-point cushion over runner-up Seminole.
"It was a good, solid race. (Remaining in a pack) was our goal," Panthers coach Mike Boza said.
"It's a tricky little course because it has some narrow sections and traditionally it's tough to run fast there. We wanted to make sure we kept our pack nice and tight, then go strong in the second half of the race. Our boys did a nice job."
The top six teams, and top 15 individuals, earned trips to next weekend's state championships at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. Plant, Newsome, Seminole and Bloomingdale earned team berths on the girls side; while Plant, Newsome, Seminole and St. Petersburg clinched boys team berths.
Countryside senior Paul "Megadeth" McKenna won the boys race (16:14.10), roughly five seconds ahead of Newsome senior Lars Benner. St. Petersburg's Sam Chandler, the only other runner to eclipse 17 minutes, (16:46.50) placed third.
On the girls side, Newsome senior Brianna Jackson -- a county champion as a freshman -- continued her resurgent season with an individual title (19:46.50). Teammate Emily Zwijacz (19:59.70) was second. Plant's Bailey Sullivan and Julia Rodriguez -- the latter of whom recently was diagnosed with mononucleosis -- were third and fourth, respectively.
St. Petersburg's Erin Waterman (fifth), Palm Harbor University's Brianna Paczynski (11th) and Sarah Swallow (15th), and Freedom's Annie Tedesco (12th) earned individual state berths.
McKenna and Clearwater's Stephen Sawayda (sixth) were the boys individual qualifiers.
Class A-3: At Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, Shorecrest, Clearwater Central Catholic, Admiral Farragut and St. Petersburg Catholic’s boys teams finished third through sixth, respectively, to advance to state.
The Chargers’ Ross Porter led area runners by finishing third in 16:24.21. Keswick Christian’s Jacob Endrulat qualified as an individual by placing sixth (16:45.75).
The Shorecrest girls were second behind Trinity Prep, paced by runnerup Alex Eaton (18:18.66) and Olivia Rovin (eighth, 19:10.03). CCC’s Saphara Harrell (sixth, 19:02.94) and Katie Englert (15th, 20:00.67) qualified as individuals.