TAMPA — The 43rd annual Nash Higgins Relays are an early-season barometer for Hillsborough County track teams.
Last season, the Steinbrenner girls team ran away with the Nash Higgins and went on to win a district title.
On Saturday at Leto High, the Plant girls (63 points) edged Alonso (60) for the team title, and the Steinbrenner boys rallied for their victory.
The Armwood boys held a one-point lead going into the final event, the 4x400 relay. While the Hawks and Warriors ran in separate heats, Steinbrenner finished ahead of Armwood and took the title with 56 points. Armwood had to settle for a second-place tie with Hillsborough at 53.
Steinbrenner, known more for its girls distance runners, scored all over the board with its male athletes. The Warriors boys shot put team took first and their 4x100 team that included three football players in Trey Johnson, Kendall Pearcy and John Marc Carrier took second.
First-year coach Mike Bosco could not have been more happy.
“It means more that these boys came out here and competed (than it does to win the Nash Higgins as a first-year coach),” Bosco said. “Just look at how many of them are still around; it’s great to see, they’ve all worked really hard.”
Nearly the entire Steinbrenner boys team stayed at the track Saturday to find out it would edge Armwood. Most of the other teams had long since cleared out.
Coach Roy Harrison’s Plant girls continued to dominate, even though they competed without Caroline Bado and others away at soccer camps.
“We had to scratch our whole 4x400 team, but we knew we would do well today,” Harrison said.
The Panthers were 11 points ahead going into the final event and would have cruised to an even bigger win had they deployed their 4x400 team.
Panthers sophomore Rachel Goding and senior Marin Arsenault broke the school record in pole vault together in the same afternoon. Both girls cleared 10 feet, 6 inches in conditions that were so cold and windy, there was talk among administratiors of canceling the meet.
The Alonso girls put the county on notice as they had three freshmen — Jasmine Jackson, T’rae Floyd and Tia Stewart — score points. Jackson won the long jump (17 feet, 7 1/4 inches). Stewart ran the 200 meters, the 4x100 relay and ran the fastest split in the 4x400 relay.
The Hawks boys won the team high jump and long jump, thanks in part to junior Michael Lofley jumping 20 feet, 8 inches in the long jump for third place. Lofley was in his first meet back from a knee injury and also ran the second-fastest hurdle shuttle. Sophomore Byron Cowart won the shot and sophomore Austin Gallon ran the fastest hurdle shuttle for the Hawks.