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Thu. October 21, 2010 | Bryan Burns

Sunshine Athletic Conference cross country championships
When:
Saturday, 8 a.m. (girls), 8:40 a.m. (boys)
Course: Starkey Park, New Port Richey. Don’t expect a lot of runners to break personal bests. The out-and-back course at Starkey Park is not known for speed, due mainly to the sugar sand that makes up portions of the course, though some of that time can be made up on a 300-meter stretch of asphalt. Most of the racers are familiar with the course, having run it at the Mitchell Invitational.

Handicapping the field
(odds-on favorite to win)
Boys
2-1: Anthony Plourde, Pasco.
Plourde defeated Wiregrass Ranch’s Josh Reilly by seven seconds at Crews Lake Park three weeks ago.
3-1: Josh Reilly, Wiregrass Ranch. Running the same course at Little Everglades Ranch last weekend — but not the same race — Reilly was four seconds better than Plourde.
5-1: Ryan Pulsifer, Wiregrass Ranch. Only four seconds behind Reilly and 11 back of Plourde at Crews Lake Park.
5-1: Sam Hippely, Wiregrass Ranch. Has gone back and forth with Pulsifer as the Bulls’ No. 2 runner on the heels of teammate Reilly.
7-1: Kolby Watson, Ridgewood. Ran a season-best 16:40 at the Mitchell Invitational on Sept. 18.
10-1: The field. Guys like Sunlake’s Kenneth Fessel, Land O’Lakes’ Hendrix LaFontant, Gulf’s Nick Buliga and Wiregrass Ranch’s Ermias Bireda all have the capability of breaking out on the slow track.

Girls
2-1: Kelli Williams, Mitchell. The defending champion has been the most consistent runner on the North Suncoast all season and is on her home course.
9-2. Ariel Grey, Wiregrass Ranch. 14 seconds behind Williams last weekend at Little Everglades Ranch.
5-1: Nikita Shah, Wiregrass Ranch. Won at Crews Lake Park, breaking the tape 37 seconds ahead of Grey, but had a subpar performance two weeks later at Little Everglades Ranch.
9-1: Alyssa Baladad, Ridgewood. Could be a surprise contender in a race where Williams, Grey and Shah are the favorites.
10-1: Marissa Tomei, Wiregrass Ranch. Ran 21:13 at Little Everglades Ranch to finish as the second Bulls runner across the line.
20-1: The field. Ridgewood’s Amy Mueller, Wiregrass Ranch’s Kelsey Sturman and Katlyn Eble and Pasco’s Victoria Baker highlight the best of the rest.

Your 2010 SAC champion is …?
Boys

Wiregrass Ranch: The defending champion would be going for its third straight title but lost by a point in 2008. The Bulls are coming off a first-place performance in the varsity race at the Little Everglades Pre-State Invitational and had three runners in the top six.  
Land O’Lakes: The Gators are the biggest threat to Wiregrass Ranch but have lost two head-to-head matchups with the Bulls at Little Everglades Ranch and Crews Lake Park.
Mitchell: The Mustangs will offer a challenge with Colby Sullivan leading the way.

Girls
Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls have won two SAC titles in a row and are the overwhelming favorite for a third. The goal for Wiregrass Ranch on Saturday is to place all seven runners in the top 12.
Gulf: The Bucs have a talented trio in Brooke Rossi, Angela Way and Renee Patnode, but they’ll need an above-average performance to outpace the Bulls.
Ridgewood: The Rams, third at the Zak Lukas Invitational, have been one of the county’s best all season.

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