SEFFNER — Seated on a grassy embankment moments after the race of his life, Seminole junior Chase Sutton wiped sweat from his bangs as a stranger approached him and extended his hand.
"Man, that was the nastiest kick I've ever seen in my life," the stranger said.
Running essentially neck and neck with heralded Chamberlain sophomore Max del Monte in the 1,600 meters at Thursday's Class 4A, Region 2 meet, Sutton abruptly pulled away with 300 meters to go and never looked back.
His time — a personal-best 4:21.11 — gave the Warhawks' cross country star his first region title and a five-second win over del Monte, who entered with the nation's best time (4:16.42) among 10th-graders.
"I knew going into the race that Max was a pretty fast dude," Sutton said. "So I knew my main thing was just to stick on him, stick on him because I knew that last 400 meters it could go (my way) if I was in the race."
While that race belonged to Sutton, the day belonged to Countryside's boys, who relied on their depth for an overwhelming team victory that avenged last season's half-point region loss to Riverview.
Cougars junior Ricy Brown won the long jump and 800, and ran the first leg on Countryside's winning 4x400-meter relay team to lead the Cougars. Other individual winners: Derek Messmore (400) and Wylan Bernitt (300 hurdles). Countryside's 4x800 team won the day's first race.
"It was an overall performance that we had to do in order to win the title," fifth-year coach Eileen Givens said. "I told them because of the depth we were blessed with this year, that that's what carried over to a regional title."
Joining Brown as a multiple region champion was Seminole senior Reagan Beal, who won the 100 and 200. On the girls side, Cougars senior Thea Linkfield won both hurdles races, edging Port St. Lucie's Lashana Porteous by two-hundredths of a second in the 100 hurdles.
"I think it was the last hurdle, we actually hit each other's hand," Linkfield said.
Other Pinellas girls champions were St. Petersburg's Nia Berthelot (high jump) and East Lake's Alicia Aldridge (800). Wharton captured the girls team title.