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Warriors start strong

ST. PETERSBURG — Aware that success can be fleeting, Osceola's boys runners have scurried to capitalize on last year's cross country windfall, which included first-time conference and district titles, as well as the program's first trip to state.

Many thought the Warriors would shuffle through some growing pains after graduating three and fielding a lineup that includes two sophomores and two freshmen among the top six.

But the infusion of youth has rejuvenated Osceola, which started the season Wednesday by capturing the team title at the Green Devil Invitational. Better still, the Warriors did it in convincing fashion, placing three in the top eight to score 40 points, 24 more than Northeast and Seminole.

"It's the first meet, but it's a good start," Osceola coach Peter Eagleson said. "The last two classes of runners that we've had here have given us a boost."

By picking up where they left off a year ago, the Warriors have evolved from darling to juggernaut and are already turning the improbable into the conventional.

The catalyst for Osceola's continued success is Hunter McCann, a sophomore who was the Warriors' highest place-winner Wednesday, finishing second in 16:53. He was beaten by St. Petersburg's Semmes Bruce, who conquered a strong group of front-runners, as well as heavy rain in the backstretch, to win in 16:41.

"I had the lead through the first 2 miles," McCann said. "Then it was back and forth after that. (Bruce) outkicked at the end. But I know I have a lot more left in me."

Osceola's AJ Jimenez was third (16:56), followed by Seminole's Lorenzo Long (16:57) and St. Petersburg's Elliot Traxler (17:04).

"The rain didn't really hurt any of us," Jimenez said. "It's the best feeling to run in those type of conditions. For us, we have a real positive outlook and we all think we can do well as a team."

Seminole and Northeast return the bulk of their runners from last year and are expected to contend for team titles. They each finished Wednesday's meet with 64 points. The Vikings won the tiebreaker because their No. 6 runner placed higher.

In the girls race, Northeast's Caroline Condon won her second straight meet in 20:25, beating Osceola's Kaley Eisenbrei (20:28).

Seminole's Olivia Suski, who was third in 20:31, led a strong contingent of Warhawks at the finish line, including Eliza Long (sixth in 21:47) and Miranda Gale (seventh in 21:50). That helped Seminole win the team title with 39 points, seven ahead of Osceola.

St. Petersburg's Megan Fitzgerald was fourth (20:47) and Northeast's Hayley Brahm was fifth (21:34).

More intriguing runners/teams to watch this season

Max Borland, Berkeley Prep: The Bucs junior, 18th at last season's Class 2A state meet, shapes up as a bona fide medal contender this fall. Coach Eileen Daly says junior Vasili Vasiloudes is on Borland's heels.

James Harkless, Nature Coast: His Sharks were district champs last year but lost three of their top four runners. The lone exception is Harkless, who placed 71st at state as a junior.

Land O'Lakes: The Gators should again be one of the North Suncoast's top teams. Reigning conference champ and North Suncoast runner of the year Travis Nichols won the Holloway Park Jamboree over the weekend, and Tyler Stahl finished in the top 10 at state in the 1,600 and 3,200 as a junior last spring. Keep an eye on Jake Poore, an all-North Suncoast runner last fall.

Promotion at Plant: Plant assistant Bryan Garcia, eighth at the 2A meet in 2009 as a Robinson senior, was hired to replace ultra-successful Plant coach Mike Boza, who retired. Garcia's first order: replenishing a lineup that graduated four of its top five runners.

Warriors start strong 09/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 10:21pm]
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