Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

North Suncoast: Class 3A/4A district track and field preview

Land O’Lakes distance runner Matt Schwartz, left, usually finishes second at most meets to teammate and senior Felix Soto. Though Schwartz is looking forward to next season, for now he will chase a position in the region meet.

ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES | Times (2007)

Land O’Lakes distance runner Matt Schwartz, left, usually finishes second at most meets to teammate and senior Felix Soto. Though Schwartz is looking forward to next season, for now he will chase a position in the region meet.

LAND O'LAKES — In nearly every race over the past two years — be it in spring or September, on a rubberized track or rural pathway — Land O'Lakes junior Matt Schwartz has had the same view.

The neck of senior teammate Felix Soto.

If Soto, a USF signee and one of the greatest distance specialists in local history, didn't exist, Schwartz likely would have a heap of conference and district titles in his collection. As it stands, this diminutive honor student has spent his career establishing himself as a solid runner only to find an "up" attached at the end.

And frankly, that makes Schwartz see red.

"There's a lot of second-place finishes," he said, "which is okay because second place gets the red ribbons, which is my favorite color."

Entering Wednesday's Class 3A, District 7 track and field meet at Central, Schwartz (5-foot-8, 140 pounds) is a favorite to finish second in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. That will qualify him for the following week's Region 2 meet, where he will likely skip the 1,600 in order to focus on earning a runnerup finish in the 3,200.

For now, Schwartz can live with that.

"We make jokes about it a lot," said Schwartz, who could pick up at least one blue ribbon Wednesday as a member of the Gators' 4x800 relay. "I'm used to kind of running behind (Soto), but I'm okay with it. It has some advantages. It takes some of the pressure off because all the focus is on him most of the time."

An aspiring engineer who boasts a 1,400 SAT score and weighted grade point average of 4.37, Schwartz began running in earnest shortly after arriving at Pine View Middle School from Orlando in eighth grade. He tried out for football at Land O'Lakes as a freshman but didn't make the team, paving the way for a highly successful — and underrated — running career.

"He's probably the hardest runner out here that I know of in track and field," said Soto, who enters Wednesday's meet with six career district titles (four individual, two relay).

"Maybe he doesn't stay up with me in the workouts, but he stays close enough to where I say, 'He's close, I'd better get farther.' … If I didn't have him, it would be hard for me to come out here and do what I do in the workouts."

Count Soto among those who project a breakthrough year for Schwartz in the 2009-10 campaign. Fellow juniors Bruce Federico of Nature Coast and Ryan Pulsifer of Wiregrass Ranch are among those who will challenge Schwartz for North Suncoast distance-running supremacy next year.

But after a scrapbook teeming with reds, Schwartz seems poised for a case of blues.

"I have some mixed feelings (about next year)," Schwartz said. "It's like finally I can maybe be first in some races, but the team score is going to drop significantly. Felix scored 30 points in the (2009) conference meet in track — on his own. The entire team only scored (112). … That's a big loss, but it is exciting to be up near the top. I am excited about that."

FAST FACTS

If not for that Soto guy …

Over the past two seasons, Land O'Lakes junior Matt Schwartz has finished second to senior classmate Felix Soto in several races, including:

• 3,200 meters at Class 3A, District 7 meet (2008)

• 3,200 meters at 3A, Region 2 meet (2008)

• Sunshine Athletic Conference cross country meet (2008)

• 3,200 meters at SAC track meet (2009)

• 1,600 meters at SAC track meet (2009)

Class 3A, District 7

Where: Central

When: Wednesday, 12:15 p.m.

Teams involved: Central, Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Groveland South Lake, Springstead, Wesley Chapel

Defending champs: Girls — Wesley Chapel; boys — South Lake

Class 4A, District 5

Where: Mitchell

When: Wednesday, 1 p.m.

Teams involved: Alonso, Countryside, East Lake, Largo, Mitchell, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Sickles

Defending champs: Girls — Palm Harbor University; boys — Countryside

North Suncoast: Class 3A/4A district track and field preview 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 10:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated

    Footballpreps

    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Vernon Hargreaves needs to improve

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs now rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 301 yards per game in their 2-3 start, and coach Dirk Koetter was asked Monday how concerned he is with the play of second-year CB Vernon Hargreaves.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, throwing an incompletion under pressure after replacing injured Jameis Winston against the Cardinals,  would start this Sunday in Buffalo if Winston’s shoulder is still bothering him.
  4. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]