NORTH PORT — The air was crisp, the wind nonexistent, the competition keen and the course a variety of terrains. For any distance runner, such conditions represent a perfect storm.
On Thursday, few rode it out faster than Chase Sutton.
On a day rife with personal-best times, Sutton had one of the most prominent. Paced by Chamberlain stars Mark Parrish and Max del Monte, the Seminole junior placed third at the Class 4A, District 4 meet in an astounding 15 minutes, 39.37 seconds.
"That is a magnificent time," Warhawks coach Bruce Calhoun said. "And he's never had competition quite like that before, so it's quite possible it got the very best out of him."
The reigning PCAC champion hardly was the only local to shine on the North Port High course of grass, shell pathways and asphalt.
Countryside's boys — behind top-20 finishers Zachary Christenson (12th), Jake Herrmann (15th) and Constatin Fotopoulos (16th) — placed second in the team standings behind Plant. On the girls side, East Lake senior Alicia Aldridge (19:18.72) and Seminole's Katie Homme (19:23.45) each posted season-best times to place fifth and sixth, respectively.
The top 15 boys and girls teams and top 15 individuals in each race qualified for next week's Region 2 meet in Lutz.
Sutton, who nearly collapsed at the finish line, said the key to his race was sticking with Parrish, who won (15:28.16); and del Monte, who finished second (15:38.99).
"It was pretty much just sticking on that front guy (Parrish)," he said. "That's what got me out really fast. We ran a 4:49 the first mile and I think a 9:54, which is a 2-mile PR for me."
Plant freshman Caroline Gibson won the girls race in a personal-best 19:04.11, a second ahead of fellow Panthers ninth-grader Julia Rodriguez.