ESTERO — As temperatures crept into the high 80s under the pounding, South Florida sun, the already grueling cross country course at Estero Community Park became almost insufferable.
Coming over the course's centerpiece hill at the Class 3A, Region 3 meet Friday, runners stumbled and sputtered. Five girls had to be removed from the race, and many more collapsed after crossing the finish line.
By comparison, Boca Ciega senior Sara Allen's run looked like a jog in the park.
Allen placed fifth individually, the best of any area girl. Her teammate and Pirates No. 2 runner Allison Corder was one of the competitors removed from the event. Corder was taken in an ambulance to HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers, where she was treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Even without Corder, the Pirates finished sixth, securing the final team spot at the Class 3A state meet Nov. 22 in Dade City. The top 15 individual finishers qualified for state as well.
"This is our first time qualifying as a team," a jubilant Allen said. "Allison would be so proud. She'll be back with us for state next week, and it should be cooler then. Today was just so hot."
Fort Myers won the event with 55 points. Northeast (142) placed fourth thanks to solid runs from seniors Brittany Hicks, Charlene Nguyen and Ayanna Rentz.
Seminole took third in the boys team competition with 103 points, 26 behind champion Charlotte (77).
Senior Kevin Siesel led the Warhawks. He chased down two runners at the finish line to take third.
"I started slow, and I just tried to build and run down people all the way through," Siesel said.
Northeast finished sixth with 163 points.
Boys team: 1. Charlotte (Cha) 77; 3. Seminole (Sem) 103; 6. Northeast (Ne) 163; 10. Osceola (Osc) 230; 12. Dunedin (Dun) 315; 14. Dixie Hollins (DH) 368
Boys individual: 1. Trent Craig (CL) 17:01.74; 3. Kevin Siesel (Sem) 17:36.45; 6. John Zurek (Ne) 17:39.23; 7. Chase Sutton (Sem) 17:44.92
Girls team: 1. Fort Myers (FM) 55; 4. Northeast (Ne) 142; 6. Boca Ciega (Boca) 155; 9. Osceola (Osc) 194; 11. Seminole (Sem) 208
Girls individual: 1. Katie Russo (FM) 19:38.73; 4. Alexis Irwin (Osc) 20:51.55; 5. Sara Allen (Boca) 20:53.93; 10. Elyse Snyder (Ne) 21:17.04; 11. Kaitlin Homme (Sem) 21:18.84; 14. Savannah Coleman (Dun) 21:48.80