LUTZ — The tear on the top of Mark Parrish's green right shoe — inflicted by another runner's spike — betrayed the fact the Class 4A-2 regional in which he had just prevailed was as much about physicality as it was fleetness.
"Luckily it missed my toe," the Chamberlain senior said. "I don't know whose spike it was."
On a cloudless Friday morning that gradually grew warmer after a chilly start, Parrish broke free from a logjam of lead runners to win his first region title. His time (15 minutes, 52 seconds), though far off his personal best, was good enough to eclipse Seminole nemesis Chase Sutton and help propel the Chiefs into the state meet.
The top six boys and girls teams, and top 15 individuals, qualified for next week's 4A meet at Dade City's Little Everglades Ranch. Plant's boys finished third (155 points), two spots ahead of Chamberlain (169). In the girls race, Plant (95) placed second, two spots ahead of Wharton (142).
"This is the first race where we've had so many guys up for such a long time and purposely slowing down the pace," said Parrish, the only county runner to win at Lake Park, which hosted two regions simultaneously. "That's kind of weird. Nobody wanted it trying to go out. It happens in the mile occasionally, but I've never had it happen in cross country."
In the girls race, Plant, behind top-10 freshmen Julia Rodriguez and Caroline Gibson, placed second with 95 points, 68 behind central Florida juggernaut Winter Park. The top three finishers all wore Wildcat orange.
"They were booking in the beginning," said Wharton junior Abby Ritter, the county's top finisher (fourth, 19:12). "Everywhere I went I saw an orange jersey."
2A-3: Knights' Garcia takes second
LUTZ — Southwest Florida power Estero coasted to the boys and girls team titles, but five county teams qualified for state.
Robinson senior Bryan Garcia had the area's top individual finish, placing second in the boys race in a personal-best 16:01. Senior Tyler Greathouse, who will run in his sixth state meet, was fourth (16:11), leading the Bucs to a runnerup team finish.
The Holy Names girls placed third, three spots ahead of Berkeley. Middleton's Amber Brooks (seventh), Steinbrenner's Lauren Garris (eighth) and Strawberry Crest's Trixi Menge (12th) all qualified individually for state.
A-3: Seffner makes state for first time
ST. PETERSBURG — Community School won the boys team title with 76 points at Taylor Park. Seffner Christian, which placed fourth, advanced to the state finals for the first time with Michael Oquendo (14th place, 17:58) moving on as an individual qualifier.
"We went in with the attitude of winning the meet instead of just trying to sneak in at sixth," Seffner coach Andy Holmes said.
Correspondent Chris Girandola contributed to this report.