Cross country: Steinbrenner sweeps; AHN, Robinson earn individual honors at West Hillsborough Invitational

TAMPA — For the duration of Tuesday evening's West Hillsborough Invitational, the area's line of thunderstorms stayed away from Al Lopez Park.

For that matter, so did Plant's varsity runners.

With the state-ranked Panthers boys and girls teams — and a few others — preserving their legs for elite races this weekend in north Florida, third-year Steinbrenner coasted to the boys and girls titles in the annual 10-team event.

Academy of the Holy Names freshman Colleen Doherty (19:56) and Robinson senior Brian Sharp (16:22) won the individual titles on the Al Lopez course of grass and paved pathways.

"All you can do is really go out and try and race your best," Sharp said. "It doesn't matter who was there or which teams ran their varsity or not, I think everyone in that race ran really hard."

Sharp, who has logged more than 700 miles since the end of track season, pulled away from a tandem of Steinbrenner runners shortly after the 2-mile mark en route to a 22-second win.

But the next five finishers — Matt Magee, Tyler Lima, Blake West, Zach Lima and Preston West — were all from Steinbrenner, last season's Class 2A runnerup.

"I was pretty happy with the way we ran today," said Warriors coach Bobby McConnell, who told his team to run in pairs for the first mile before trying to catch anyone ahead of them.

"The plan worked, I thought, pretty well. We were just trying to toy with a few strategies we think will work for us at the end of the year."

Doherty, who exploded onto the local scene as an eighth-grader and finished ninth at last fall's 2A meet, was essentially unchallenged, topping runnerup Lauren Garris of Steinbrenner by 42 seconds. All five Warriors scorers finished in the top 15.

"I knew (Plant's runners) weren't going to be there, but to be honest, I like having them there," Doherty said. "They give that extra push that just keeps you going that much faster."

Cross country: Steinbrenner sweeps; AHN, Robinson earn individual honors at West Hillsborough Invitational 09/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 12:01am]

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