LARGO — Palm Harbor University's girls team has won several big cross country meets this season. But the Hurricanes' chances for claiming another team title at the Eagle Lake Invitational seemed remote considering they were without their top runner, Sarah Raymond, who had a prior commitment with her club soccer team.
Nevertheless, PHU showed off its depth, placing three runners in the top nine to win with 49 points, 24 ahead of Seminole.
"I knew we had a chance to be pretty good this year," Hurricanes coach Darryl Southard said. "But the girls have exceeded my expectations so far. A lot of that has to do with adding some new runners who gave us some depth on what was already a good team."
PHU did well by using a system called pack running, in which the Hurricanes calmly bunch together toward the front of the field instead of charging off, every girl for herself, to play down individual stars in favor of cooperation.
They forged a team that will run a smart race.
"A lot of people complimented us on the way we ran strong and stayed together," Southard said.
Brianna Paczynski, a senior, was PHU's highest place-winner, taking fifth in 21:20.33. Newcomers Anna Hamilton and Jenna Thompson finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Seminole's Olivia Suski won her second big meet of season, finishing in 20:29. Boca Ciega's Alexis Stevens was second (20:41), followed by East Lake's Sabrina Siegel (20:55) and Largo's Tiffany Kern (21:09).
In the boys race, Osceola remained undefeated, outscoring Seminole 44-65 for the team title.
The Warriors were led by AJ Jimenez, who was second (17:04) and Hunter McCann, who was fourth (17:11).
Nature Coast's James Harkless won in 17:03 and teammate Austin Mulyck was third (17:10). The Warhawks' Iain Marsh was fifth (17:40).