SARASOTA — The cross country course at Sarasota's McIntosh Middle was long on turns and short on space. The tight corners meant top times would be hard to obtain even with the cooler weather at the start of Saturday's Class 4A, District 4 meet.
Plant boys coach Mike Boza, though, was more concerned about where his runners placed.
"We weren't focused so much on time as counting bodies," Boza said. "We were trying to get five guys in the top 20."
The Panthers came close with five in the top 25, including two in the top 10. That was enough to win the team title with 72 points, eight ahead of Sarasota.
"We ran a conservative race and tried to stay within ourselves," Boza said. "After the 2-mile mark, if they felt good, we would let them go. But we wanted to save something for the next two rounds."
The Panthers' Bo Nalsen was fifth (16 minutes, 28.02 seconds) and teammate Thomas Christenberry was 10th (16:41.18).
Chamberlain's Max del Monte was the county's top individual finisher among the boys, placing second in 15:56.09, nearly four seconds behind his top rival, Seminole's Chase Sutton (15:52.75). Del Monte's teammate, Jacob Covington, was third in 16:10.25.
The Chiefs and Sarasota each scored 80. But the Sailors finished as the runnerup because their No. 6 runner placed ahead of Chamberlain's. Freedom advanced to region by taking seventh.
The girls race was not much of a contest. Plant used its superior depth to win with 31 points, 22 ahead of Sarasota Riverview. The Panthers had five runners in the top 10 and seven in the top 25.
Sarasota Riverview had the top two runners. After that, it was an express of Panthers who crossed the finish line, with Abigail Hagan coming in third (19:49.06), Caroline Gibson fourth (19:52.16) and Julia Rodriguez fifth (19:52.73).
Wharton (fourth) and Freedom (seventh) advanced their teams to regions.