No new district contains more North Suncoast runners than Class 3A, District 3. Despite the predictions and appearances, runners' times change on a dime and a flu bug. On paper, Wiregrass Ranch appears the team to beat. But several teams will have something to say about the district crown.
Girls teams to watch
Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls enter as the favorites to win the district, and some internal competition has helped improve times. For the first time freshman Nikita Shah surpassed junior Ariel Grey, edging her in the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet. Shah's 20:12 finish, good for second place, edged Gray by 12 seconds.
Land O'Lakes: The Gators are running on their home course. With a slew of runners expected to graduate, this could be their best postseason opportunity for a season or two. Renea Porsch has led the way and is coming off a fourth-place finish at conference ( 20:47). The Gators had three in the top nine at conference, including fellow seniors Morgan Keppel and senior Lailoni Kailimai.
Mitchell: Kelli Williams leads a solid group of juniors. But her coach made it clear after Saturday's SAC victory that Williams needed an edge if she hoped to shine among the state's best. Whether the message got through will be known at district. Williams will be challenged by many familiar faces.
Outside threat: Lecanto freshman Chloe Benoist should provide a fresh challenge. She just won the Crystal River Invitational and finished second at the Gator Invitational ahead of Williams and Shah.
Boys teams to watch
Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls claimed their first SAC title last week at Starkey Park, and it wasn't even close. Five Bulls finished in the top 13, including junior Ryan Pulsifer, who was second in 17:08. The Bulls are favorites to win their first district title.
Land O'Lakes: The Gators had three runners in the top six at SAC, but managed just a third-place finish while missing strong fourth and fifth runners. Senior Matt Schwartz continued the Gators' streak of individual titles dating to 2005 with his time of 16:49.
Nature Coast: A coaching change just before the season disrupted what many thought could be a huge year for the Sharks. The team and coach seem to have adjusted, and the result has been strong running in October. Nature Coast senior Bruce Federico has slashed his times significantly, running a 16:58.85 for fifth place in the Crystal River Invitational. The Sharks won the meet.
Outside threat: Citrus sophomore Timothy Wenger won the Crystal River Invitational and finished 10th at the Little Everglades Pre-State Invitational.
Class 3A, District 3
Host: Land O'Lakes
Site: Crew Lake Park
When: Nov. 5, girls 4:30; boys 5
Teams: Belleview, Central, Citrus, Dunnellon, Gulf, Hudson, Ocala Lake Weir, Land O'Lakes, Lecanto, Leesburg, Mitchell, Nature Coast, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
Class 2A, District 3
Host: Crystal River
Site: Crystal River
When: Wednesday, girls 4:30; boys 5
Teams: Anclote, Crystal River, Eustis, Hernando, Interlachen, Keystone Heights, Mount Dora, Pasco, Santa Fe, Tavares, Ocala Trinity Catholic, Umatilla, Wesley Chapel, Williston
Class A, District 5
Host: Keswick Christian
Site: Taylor Park
When: Nov. 5, girls 10:15; boys 11
Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Admiral Farragut, All Saints', Bayshore Christian, Calvary Christian, Cambridge Christian, Canterbury, Carrollwood, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Keswick Christian, Lakeland Christian, Northside Christian, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, Seffner Christian, Shorecrest Prep, Tampa Bay Christian, Tampa Prep, Lake Wales Vanguard, Avon Park Walker Memorial Junior
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.