DADE CITY — The outcome of Saturday morning's Sunshine Athletic Conference championship was as riveting as the setting was remote. At a sprawling regional park on Pasco County's eastern fringe, a girls dynasty and boys rivalry were spawned almost simultaneously.
Behind repeat champion Ariel Grey, the Wiregrass Ranch girls team captured the first of what could be a string of conference crowns with a dominant effort.
About a half-hour later, the Bulls boys scored 54 to come within a point of knocking off resident power Land O'Lakes, which eked out its fourth consecutive team title and watched senior Felix Soto win his third straight individual crown.
At Withlacoochee River Park, runners competed on a course featuring sandy paths — and some pavement — through mostly wooded scenery.
"The sandy parts just slow you down, then the turns, they seriously slow you down," said Soto, whose winning time (16 minutes, 8 seconds) was far off his personal record but 37 seconds ahead of teammate and runner-up Matt Schwartz.
Soto and Schwartz were among three Gators to place in the top eight (sophomore Jake Morken was the other).
On the girls side, Wiregrass Ranch's top four runners all eclipsed 21 minutes en route to an eight-point win (39 to 47) over Land O'Lakes. Grey, a sophomore, pulled away from co-leader Jessica Furst of Wesley Chapel near the 1.8-mile mark en route to a career-best time (19:32).
Grey has an eye on winning four consecutive conference titles. "I wanted to keep my title," she said, "and I wanted my team to get pumped up."