LARGO — Northeast's girls have moved from the anonymity of the pack at Pinellas County Athletic Conference meets into sudden contention after finishing third two years ago and second last season.
This year, the Vikings finished with all other teams behind them. Northeast's ascension to the top is now complete after winning the school's first girls conference in more than 30 years. The Vikings scored 76 points to beat Palm Harbor University by two.
"We've been progressing each year," Northeast coach Larry Rudisell said. "I'm glad these girls were finally able to win, especially my seniors."
Elyse Snyder, a junior, was the Vikings' highest finisher, placing third. But seniors Brittany Hicks, Charlene Nguyen and Aynna Rentz also turned in strong efforts to help Northeast hold off the hard-charging Hurricanes.
Tarpon Springs' Kailand Cosgrove was the individual winner, beating out Seminole's Katie Homme.
The boys race was supposed to be an anticipated showdown between Countryside and Largo, who were facing each other for the first time this season.
It didn't turn out to be one as the Cougars placed all five runners in the top 21 to win its first conference title under coach Eileen Givens. Countryside scored 48 points, followed by Seminole with 67 and Largo with 70.
"I preached to these guys to work hard and stay dedicated," Givens said. "Now, they're seeing that the hard work can pay off at the end."
The Cougars' Zach Christenson beat St. Petersburg's Wes Reynolds for the individual title. Northeast's Jon Zurek, Largo's Gabe Ramos and Seminole's Kevin Siesel finished 3-4-5.
Bay Conference: IRC's Johnson ekes by Shorecrest's Spanos
CLEARWATER — Three weeks ago, Shorecrest's Stephen Spanos edged Indian Rocks Christian's Josh Johnson during a race at Disney.
At the Bay Conference championship Thursday, Johnson didn't want to finish second again. He held a slim lead over Spanos down the final stretch and his instinct told him he needed to run even faster.
"I was 10 yards from the finish when I heard footsteps behind me and people shouting (Spanos') name," Johnson said. "I kicked it in even more."
Spanos said he was hoping for one last charge, but "at the end (Johnson) had that last boost."
Johnson won his second straight conference meet in 17 minutes, 28.89 seconds. Spanos settled for second (17:29.29) and Ryan Cardew of Calvary Christian was third (17:43.96).
In the girls meet, there was no competition at the end for two-time champion Katelyn Greenleaf of Northside Christian. Near the halfway mark she had a 13-second lead over Keswick Christian's Hannah Palm and at the finish her advantage was 20 seconds.
"I was trying to stay with her, but she kind of just pulled away," said Palm, who crossed in 20:06.0.
"I was really trying for 18 (minutes), but after I started running I didn't think that was going to happen," said Greenleaf, who crossed in 19:46.99.
Victoria Goodwin was third and Melina Sequin was fourth — both for Northside Christian, which took the girls team title with 34 points. Keswick Christian was runnerup with 42.
Shorecrest won the boys title with 26 points, followed by Indian Rocks with 56.
Doug Kates, Times correspondent