PINELLAS PARK — One team was back at the Richard Allen Relays because it knew it could win again. The other returned after a year's hiatus with high hopes of winning.
Both ended up dominating the ninth annual event at Pinellas Park on Friday from start to finish as the Countryside boys team won for the sixth consecutive time and the Osceola girls team captured a victory with numbers it didn't have last year.
The Cougars finished with 104 points, good enough for a 24-point win over St. Petersburg. Lakewood tallied 72 points for a third-place finish.
"I told them they couldn't take anything for granted and they needed to stay focused throughout the entire (meet)," Countryside coach Eileen Givens said. "We had the four horsemen (Kosta Fotopoulos, Zach Christensen, Jake Herrmann and Matt Worner) graduate and they were big-time runners for us. We've had a lot of guys step up for us this year so far."
The distance medley team of Cory Sauerwine, Nick Bushman, Nick Fineo and Paul McKenna are part of that group, and cruised to a 10-second win in the event.
"We knew Lakewood was creeping up on us because of their sprinters, and it motivated us to push ourselves even more," Fineo said. "It's nice to duplicate what the seniors continued last year."
The 4x800 team of Ricky Brown, Jordan Rossi, Wylan Bernitt and Derek Messmore replaced the team that included the "four horsemen" and had to use every ounce of energy to earn a 1.5-second victory over Lakewood.
"We heard people talking about how we were going to peak too early so that was a big-time adrenaline rush," Brown said.
On the girls side, Osceola's team that consisted of 60 girls finished first in six events to earn 94 points. Lakewood had 66 points for a second-place finish and Countryside had 64 points.
"The balance was really important for us and a key reason why we decided to return this year," Osceola coach Peter Eagleson said. "It's really gratifying to see the way they've pushed themselves to improve in each event. We have a lot of athletes who have chosen events they've never done before and they've performed very well."
Lakewood could have scored higher, but its 4x100 team was disqualified after dropping the baton between the second and third legs. But two events later, three of the girls in that relay, Sharell Keys, Erika Allen and Kajira Davis, teamed with Gincy Marcelin to win the 4x200 with ease.
"We were concentrating so much to make sure that didn't happen again," Allen said after the nearly five-second win over St. Petersburg. "Once I handed off to Kajira, she was gone and we knew we had it."