WINTER HAVEN — Felix Soto flew across the finish line in disgust.
The Land O'Lakes junior quickly took a seat on the infield grass, putting fear into the mosquitoes feasting on everyone else. One by one his opponents finished then walked over and shook hands with the 3,200 Class 3A, Region 2 champion.
Soto, who has dominated most of the distance races he has run the past two years, had an early setback in the 1,600, finishing second behind Ocala Lake Weir senior Ryan Noeker, who was the favorite. Of course, Soto still managed to cut roughly five seconds from his district title run in the 1,600 and six seconds from his 3,200 district title time.
"I haven't been running good," Soto said in a serious tone. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
Soto was among several North Suncoast teams feeling the pinch of tougher competition. He still walked out of Denison Stadium as one of two North Suncoast region champions. Ridgewood senior Keari Brink broke a string of fifth-place finishes to vault into the state meet with her winning vault of 10 feet, 6 inches.
"I've missed going to state every year by one place," Brink said. "I was really excited because every year I've placed fifth. It's just exciting to get first."
In team competition, Wesley Chapel's girls finished second with 45 points, the only North Suncoast team — boys or girls — to finish in the top five. The Gators boys finished tied for ninth with 26 points.
The Wesley Chapel 4x800 team of Desiree Vizcaino, Merideth Dean, Kirsten Fee and Jessica Furst finished fourth with a school-record time of 10:00.42. Wildcats senior Jeani Ducos tied for second in the discus with a throw of 112-3, while junior Earon Hicks finished third in the triple jump with a school-record jump of 44-7.25. Teammate Kamran Joyer also finished third in boys competition with a mark of 51-2.25.
Land O'Lakes freshman Nicole Woodard finished fourth in the long jump with a mark of 16-10, and Gators junior Reta Woodard was third in the shot put with a mark of 36-9. Gators sophomore Matt Schwartz also advanced to state after taking second in the 3,200 (9:59.58).