MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Girls runner of the year: Nikita Shah, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch
Why we picked her: Crossing the line fourth in the Class 3A meet, Shah became the first Bull in school history to medal at state, no small feat for a program that has become the best in the area. Shah avenged her district and region runnerup finishes by beating out champion Anne-Marie Blaney (sixth place) of Belleview at state.
Biggest accomplishment: At Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City, Shah clocked in at 17:53, almost two minutes faster than any other North Suncoast runner in the state competition.
Future plans: Shah still has another year left in her prep career, but does have plans to compete as a distance runner at the college level. She has recently received interest from Miami and is interested in Florida.
Did you know? Shah is a two-time district champion in the 3,200 meters in track and field. She won the race by more than 20 seconds as a sophomore. As a freshman, she placed 10th at state and ninth last season. …Shah was 65th (18:36) among a national field in at the Foot Locker South Region meet in Charlotte, N.C., in late November.
Kari Grippo, So., Gulf: Despite not being 100 percent with a hamstring injury at state, ran a 19:32 and finished ninth in the Class 2A meet. Also beat Shah in the Foot Locker South Region race (49th place).
Claudia Cancello, Jr., Mitchell: Qualified for the 3A state meet with an at-large bid after an 11th-place region finish (20:06), then impressed finishing 35th in 19:52.
Elise Cedre, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Clocked a 19:30 at districts for fourth place, and was one of only seven girls to run sub-21 minutes at state (20:26).
Berlin Waters, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: More evidence of the Bulls’ depth; Waters was consistent all postseason before her 20:33 at state.
Chelsea Ginn-Davis, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Rounds out the senior-less first team; placed sixth at districts (19:44), 14th at regionals (20:11) and 84th at state (20:56).
Savannah Goode, So., Wiregrass Ranch
Mia Savino, So., Gulf
Tiana Newton, Fr., Springstead
Elaina Cancello, So., Mitchell
Alyssa Turner, So., Wesley Chapel
Gulf: Katie Buckman, Judith Young, Rachael Patnode, Eliza Godza, Renee Patnode; Hernando: Tabitha Loose, Brianna Boswell; Nature Coast: Tatiana LaSanta, Mary Thomson, Therese Thomson; Pasco: Alyssa Mercadante, Rebecca Eitnier, Rebecca Newlon, Victoria Baker, Hanna Frauen, Bonnie Lucas, Tristan Norby; Ridgewood: Samantha Martinez; Springstead: Ty’Rhonza Harris, Devon Rennie; Wiregrass Ranch: Addie Cornwell
Coach of the year
Don Howard, Wiregrass Ranch: One season after finishing 13th at state, the Bulls had to replace five of their top eight runners. Expectations weren’t as high as usual, but Howard led the Bulls to a seventh-place state finish and a fourth straight SAC title. Next season, Wiregrass will be looking for a top-five state finish as most of the girls return.
Boys runner of the year: Sam Hippely, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
Why we picked him: In a three-way battle for the best runner of the season with teammate Ermias Bireda and Land O’Lakes’ Travis Nichols, the senior got the nod with his consistency throughout the postseason. He was the runnerup to Nichols at the district meet, fourth at regionals (highest among the three mentioned), and a solid 26th at state.
Biggest accomplishment: In his final shot at the conference title, Hippely crossed the line first at the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet in October. He refused to finish behind his rivals that day, pushing for a time of 16:19.
Future plans: With intentions of running at the next level, he has narrowed his college choices to North Florida, West Florida, USF, and Embry-Riddle.
Did you know? Hippely was selected to the 2011 Florida Athletic Coaches Association Team and raced in the FACA All-Star Classic on Dec. 3 in Tallahassee along with some of the best seniors in the state.
Travis Nichols, So., Land O’Lakes: District champion broke 16 minutes at McKethan Lake for the title. He also finished 16th at state (16:10), only a second behind Bireda as the area’s top finisher.
Ermias Bireda, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Top North Suncoast finisher at state in 16:09. He also placed fourth at districts and fifth at regionals.
Argishti Gazari, Sr., Anclote: He was the top North Suncoast finisher in Class 2A (19th, 16:58) and the only one to cross under 17 minutes.
Cody Van Natter, Jr., Nature Coast: Despite having the worst performance of his season at state, the district champ (16:54) was a coach on the course for the Sharks.
David Hill, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: His 31st-place finish and 16:26 time helped cement a sixth-place standing in Class 3A for the Bulls.
Tyler Mattera, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
Chris Sorrick, Sr., Anclote
Kevin Ciccone, Jr., Nature Coast
Parker Steinkamp, Sr., Hernando
James Harkless, So., Nature Coast
Anclote: Spencer Guerette, Fivay: Kenny Walker, Gulf: Nick Buliga, Mike Keller, Wesley Best, Domenic Crisafulli, Dustin Demattia, Robby Jessup, Patrick Moore; Land O’Lakes: Dillon Oergel, Tyler Stahl, Tyler MacDonald, Steve Barnabei, Trevor Nichols, Jake Poore, Mitchell: Nicholas Kostakis, Nature Coast: Tyler Moore, Austin Stratton, Stephen Murphy, William Sandifer, Springstead: Carl Zee, Sunlake: Kenneth Fessel; Wiregrass Ranch: Patrick Hill, Ben Hall, Thor Alastre
Coach of the year
Eric Milholland, Nature Coast: In his third season with the Sharks, the former Central coach has built a winning program. His team went seven deep, almost achieving a perfect score while winning its first district title this season.