TAMPA — There was no way Countryside's boys could win entering the final race of the night.
Coach Eileen Givens knew that. Regardless of how the Cougars finished the 4x400 relay, their fate already had been decided in the high jump.
The Cougars had come back from being down by 17 at one point, and when Tucker Tollard finished fifth with a jump of 6-0 the Cougars looked to score more points. But he tied in the event, and by rule the points were split, giving Countryside 31/2. And despite the Cougars 4x400 winning the final race of the night, the Cougars lost the team title to Sarasota Riverview (67) by half a point.
"I never lost a meet by a half of a point for as long as I've been coaching," said Givens, who has been coaching 16 years in Pinellas County.
"You would rather lose by 20 than a half."
Instead of dwelling on the negative, Givens pointed to what her team had accomplished, sending several runners to state, including pole vault winner Anthony Lombardo (13-6).
Other Pinellas County winners included East Lake junior Alicia Aldridge, who won the 800 in 2:20.47.
Arguably the biggest story of the night was Chamberlain senior Dentarius Locke, who can now tout being among the fastest runners in the nation.
The Chiefs speedster won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes with blistering times of 10.31 and 20.81, respectively. His 100 is among the nation's top five, and his 200 stands alone.
"I PR'd (personal record) big time today," Locke said. "…I'm excited. …My long-term goal is to get to the Olympics."
Trying to win state titles next week for Locke is a given. He'd also like to break state records.
But Thursday was about the national spotlight, and Locke said he looks at the national rankings daily. He can give various directions along the Internet road maps to sites that keep those times updated.
Locke shared the sprint spotlight with teammate Amanda Leland, who a year ago did not make the region final and recently took visits to Kentucky and Central Florida.
This year won the 100 (12.10) and 200 (25.45).
"I was crushed," Leland said of last year's performance in his first year of running. "This year I wanted to come back and make my name known, show people I really can run."