PINELLAS PARK — Five schools chose not to return to the 10th annual Richard Allen Invitational Relays at Pinellas Park High School, but Countryside never thought twice — the Cougars had a winning streak to keep alive.
The Countryside boys made it five years in a row for the team championship Friday, taking first place in seven of 12 events.
Coach Eileen Simmons said as long as the winning streak is still alive and her boys love running this special track meet, her Cougars will keep returning.
"I like the competition here," she said. "Most of the southside schools are here and there's a lot of speed. I'm always blessed to have sprinters, and we were able to balance it out with the distance runners."
Countryside tallied 93 points, Boca Ciega (61) was second and Lakewood (59.5) third.
One of the Cougars relay teams to pick up a victory was its 4x800 relay, but don't tell Kosta Fotopoulos, Matt Worner, Jake Herrmann and Ricky Brown this was a warmup meet to the regular season. The foursome completed the race in 8 minutes, 20 seconds — 38 seconds ahead of second-place Lakewood.
On the girls side, Boca Ciega took the early lead in the team standings when Reaia Thomas, Qyteshia Middlebrooks and Delashay Williams combined to win the discus relay and the shot put relay. This was Middlebrooks' second career track competition and she was surprised to see the Pirates grab the early lead, but Williams said it only took a little cheering.
"It was actually the whole team who did it," she said. "I had to encourage the girls to do what they do and then they did the rest."
After seven events the Countryside girls took the lead from Boca Ciega and held on to make the evening a Cougars sweep. The Countryside girls finished with 89 points, Lakewood 69 and Pinellas Park 59. Last year Lakewood won the team title over Countryside on the final event.
In the distance relay, the Cougars team of Amelia Long, Emily Hall, Christina Resing and Rebbecca Pezzino clinched the team title with a win. Pezzino said it was not a preseason warmup. She said she and her teammates were ready to run.
"I had the energy and potential to keep going," she said. "I felt anxious (waiting for the fourth leg), but I liked it when my teammates cheered me on."