RIVERVIEW — Anna Montgomery and Bailey Sullivan are best friends who train side-by-side for every race. And in Thursday’s Class 4A, District 7 meet, the duo’s inseparability earned the Plant girls a championship.
Newsome led Plant most of the meet until Montgomery and Sullivan finished first and second, respectively, in the 3,200 meters, crossing the finish just nine-hundredths of a second apart. Plant freshman Laura Jones finished third.
“It was exciting,” Sullivan said of the photo finish. “We were running for the team, for sure.”
The points Plant earned in the longest event of the evening gave it a seven-point lead against Newsome going into the final race, and the Panthers went on to finish fourth in the 4x400 relay to hold onto first.
Plant finished with 128 points, edging Newsome by four. Riverview came in third (106) . On the boys side, Newsome won its third district title in five years with 155 points. Riverview (128.5) and Bloomingdale (84) came in second and third, respectively.
Sullivan, the Times’ 2013 all-county Runner of the Year in cross country, said she and Montgomery use each other in races to help pace themselves. Twice on Thursday, that strategy paid dividends.
In the 1,600, Sullivan finished in five minutes, 24.18 seconds. Second-place Montgomery wasn’t far behind (5:25.54).
“We’re both very close in times,” Montgomery said about her relationship with Sullivan. “In the races we’re usually pretty close, then one of us will go. It’s nice to have a teammate like that to push you.”
The Riverview girls won six of 10 track events, as freshman J’Nai Taylor became a double district champion with wins in the 100 and 200, and Maia Carter followed with wins in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
In contrast, the first-place Newsome boys won just two events, Todd Jackson in the 400 and David Kornitzer in the pole vault. But when it came down to it, the Wolves won the title by everyone giving championship-level effort, coach Kevin Sharp said.
“The kids stepped up tonight,” he said. “It was about winning individually, but they came together as a team, and their focus was on that.”
Class A-3: Melbourne Holy Trinity may have dominated the team standings in Thursday’s meet at Calvary Christian, but Hillsborough County teams still sent several athletes on to state.
Seffner Christian, which placed seventh with 31 points, got 13 big points from thrower Jamari Johnson. Johnson grabbed the fourth qualifying spot in the shot put (46-0) and was second in the discus (162-4). The latter broke Johnson’s personal record and is the 12th-best mark in the state, according to Flrunners.com. Florida commit Chris Olson of Canterbury won the event with a throw of 171-11, eighth best in the state.
“(Competition) pushes me more,” Johnson said. “I’m more of a come-and-get-you sort of guy.”
Teammate Robbie Shell won the long jump (21-10). Cambridge Christian’s Josh Wolcott claimed a region title in the triple jump (41-8.25), and fellow Lancer Madison Cox grabbed the third qualifying spot in the 400 (59.27).
Tampa Prep’s Oscar Skjaerpe and Qaseem Wajd were third and fourth, respectively, in a speedy 800 that saw all four qualifiers come in under two minutes. The Terrapins also helped the 4x400 relay team take second. The Terrapin boys finished in a tie for eighth (29).
Carrollwood Day’s Elias Earley clipped all of the area competition to claim second in the 200 (22.53). .
North Suncoast athletes won’t be left out of state either.
Bishop McLaughlin senior Desiree’ Nathe topped her personal record in the girls high jump, clearing 5 feet, 5 inches to claim the title. The Hurricane girls scored 15 points finish 14th overall.
“I kind of messed up my first three years so this was extremely important,” Nathe said.
Teammate Rachel Verscharen, nabbed the fourth qualifying spot in the girls discus (98-1). It will be both seniors’ first trip to states.
The Hurricanes were strong in the throwing events as junior Will Beatty was the runnerup in the shot put (47-8.5).
Times correspondent Andy Warrener contributed to this report.