ST. PETERSBURG — In the past five seasons, Countryside has established itself as the most dominant boys track program in the county.
So when the Cougars declined an invitation to last year's West Coast Invitational because it fell on the same night as another meet, many figured their abdication was temporary and that they would be back to beat all pretenders to their throne.
Sure enough, Countryside regained its spot at the top of the team standings, beating host Lakewood for the title.
"We knew we would be able to score a lot in the middle and distance events," said Cougars coach Eileen Givens, whose team has won every meet it has entered this season. "That's where we were able to separate ourselves from the pack."
Countryside has won three of the past four team titles at the meet.
On Wednesday, the Cougars took the top two spots in the 800 and 1,600 meters. Derek Messmore was the Cougars' scorer, winning the 400, placing fourth in the 200 and running on the winning 400 relay.
By the final two races, the Cougars had a big enough lead that Givens was able to pull her top two distance runners in the 3,200 to save them for this weekend's USF/George Steinbrenner meet in Tampa.
"We've been on a pretty good roll, but it's going to get a lot tougher in the next few weeks," she said.
The Spartans' Theodore West was named the boys MVP for running events after winning the 200, finishing second in the 100 and running a leg on the winning 100 relay.
Largo's Austin Mai, who won the discus and took second in the shot put, was the boys field events MVP.
Lakewood won the girls team title by dominating the sprints. The Spartans' Kala Funderburk won the 200 and 400 and ran a leg on the winning 400 relay. In the 400, Lakewood took the top three spots.
Osceola's Alexis Irwin, the girls running MVP, dominated the distance events, winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. In the 3,200, she nearly lapped the field.
The field event MVP was Boca Ciega's Chaise Cook-Martin, who won the high jump and long jump.