Some of next week's district cross country races, face it, are pretty easy to forecast.
Plant City belongs to Class 4A, District 6, which might as well be dubbed Plant High and everyone else. There, second place will be just as good as first in a "normal" district.
Durant will be racing in 4A-7 where Newsome, hosting this year, is always strong.
And then there's Strawberry Crest's district where it's anybody's guess. The Chargers boys are good enough to win the 3A-9 championship, and yet there's no guarantee they'll qualify for regionals.
"It's gonna be real close," said Chargers head coach Mike Farrier. "Honestly I'm really, really excited about it."
Strawberry Crest will host the six-team gathering at the Dover Horse Trails on Tuesday afternoon. For the most part, east Hillsborough schools make up the group, but it's the outsider that brings the top runner.
Canaan Meester-Kitterman is the top male in Manatee County, and although his Bradenton Bayshore teammates can't keep up, Meester-Kitterman automatically makes the Bruins a candidate to win the team trophy.
The top three teams go to the Nov. 9 Region meet in Estero. Any individuals who finish in the top 15 advance regardless of if their team goes top three.
All of that means surely some Chargers will get to run again after Tuesday's races are done. Point is, Farrier would prefer to see all of his athletes continue.
It's easy to understand why he forecasts a nip-and-tuck affair. Just check out the results of last Friday's county championship at Tampa's Lake Park. The five Hillsborough County squads from 3A-9 were bunched within eight spots of one another.
Improved Armwood was best, placing 12th. Brandon was 14th, and the Chargers were a mere two points behind in 15th. It looks like four teams — toss in Bayshore — will battle for the top three spots.
The Chargers were led by Scott Barrett at the county championship, who placed 59th. Teammates Jon Browning, David Kornitzer and Cody Williamson came across the line consecutively in spots 86-88, running their 5K race in a little more than 19 minutes.
Strawberry Crest's girls team took a major hit when top runner Ashley Murray's season ended early over a stress fracture. Still, the Chargers at the county were second-best among the five schools that will be running Tuesday at districts. Freshman Christina Cauthen was fastest with a 23:46 time, followed by Nastassia Cordero (24:45) and Stephanie Del Valle (25:04).
Brandon's Eliana Ochoa, who was 13th at the county meet with a 20:35 time, is the race favorite.
Durant and Plant City run their district meets Thursday, and for the Raiders, it's almost an impossible task to get a top-three team finish only because of the strength of 4A-6. Defending state champion Plant paces the girls field, and the Panthers boys aren't too shabby, either.
Geography nudged Durant into the 4A-7, which gives the Cougars better odds to advance. The Newsome and Sarasota Riverview girls should dominate. Manatee may have an edge as the third squad but the Riverview boys, led by Justin Waters (18:01), were a very respectable 11th at the county race.