Calvary Christian's Hannah Brookover was a soccer player who tried cross country for the first time last year. She became one of the county's top runners, finishing 21st at the state meet.
Now, Brookover is more consumed with running. The sophomore continued her meteoric rise with a strong start to the season, winning the Holloway Park Jamboree in 19:37.30. She followed that up with a fifth-place finish at last weekend's Mountain Dew Invitational in Gainesville with a time of 18:40.53, nearly a minute faster than her time at last year's state meet.
Brookover finished the highest among Pinellas County girls runners at the meet, ahead of Shorecrest's Alex Eaton, who was considered one of the favorites.
Eaton was eighth in 18:58.93. She attributed her subpar performance to not eating enough before the race.
It was a rough meet for the Chargers, who were without three of their top runners and finished 16th overall.
Shorecrest's boys had it worse. The team bus had a flat tire on the way to Gainesville. The runners were held up even longer because of an accident on I-75. Once they arrived, they were too late for the varsity race and had to run with the junior varsity. Despite not being pushed, the Chargers' Luke Peterson (16:59.04) and Ross Porter (16:59.06) each posted season-best times, finishing 1-2.
"It was a tough weekend," Shorecrest coach Jeff Raab said. "We had a to deal with some bad luck before the race, and then had to battle through a hot day. But I thought both teams ran well and had great times considering the circumstances."
Leaders of the pack: Based on early-season results, Osceola's boys and Seminole's girls are the teams to beat among county public schools.
The Warriors have won every big meet, including team titles last week at the Cougar Invitational and the Anclote Invitational.
Osceola's top runner is Hunter McCann, a sophomore who bounced back from a runnerup finish at the season-opening meet to take first at the Cougar Invitational (16:10) and Anclote Invitational (18:05). But the Warriors have won because of depth. Two of McCann's teammates, Abimael Jimenez and Reggie Cape, have each had top-10 finishes in their past three big meets.
The Warhawks girls, meanwhile, have won team titles at the Green Devil and Cougar Invitational. Olivia Suski has become Seminole's No. 1 runner and won last week's Cougar Invitational in 20:00.
Streak at stake: Northeast's Caroline Condon, who took over as the Vikings' top runner this season, has won individual titles at the Pirate and Green Devil Invitational. She'll try to keep that streak alive Thursday at the Viking Invitational, a 10-team meet that includes Boca Ciega, Seminole and St. Petersburg, who have strong runners.