CLEARWATER — For the past three years, Lakewood and Northside Christian had a stranglehold on the girls team title at the Ed Wells/Kiwanis Invitational track meet.
The schools have alternated as champions with the Spartans winning in 2008 and '10 and the Mustangs taking first in '09.
On Tuesday, both teams were at it again in the closest race for a championship since the meet added a girls competition in '06.
Heading into the final event, Lakewood and Northside were tied with 97 points. The winner would be decided in the 4x400-meter relay. The Mustangs took the lead in the first two legs. The Spartans caught up by the third. On the final leg, Northside Christian's Sarah Schultz and Lakewood's Gincy Marcelin were nearly stride-for-stride. Marcelin had just enough kick to lunge ahead for the win.
The margin of victory: 0.06 seconds.
That was enough for the Spartans to beat the Mustangs 107-105 to become the first team to win consecutive girls titles at the meet.
Lakewood was paced by Kala Funderburk, who was the girls most valuable runner. The Memphis recruit won the high jump, 200 and 400 and anchored the winning 4x800 relay. She also set meet records in the high jump (5 feet, 4 inches) and the 200 (24.84).
Northside Christian's Katelyn Greenleaf was just as strong, winning the 1,600 and 3,200 and finishing second in the 800. In the 1,600 she broke her own meet record with a time of 5:11.12.
Funderburk usually runs the anchor leg on Lakewood's 4x400 relay but she had competed in the maximum four events by the time of the race. Still, the Spartans came through with a different lineup.
"We put Kala in some individual events because we knew she could win and give us points," Lakewood coach Megan Geidner said. "The other girls were nervous for the 4x400 but they just have this we're-not-going-to-lose mentality."
On the boys side, Countryside won its fourth straight team title and fifth in the past six years, beating St. Petersburg 110.5-98.
The Cougars trailed after the field events but made up ground in the middle distance events. Ricy Brown won the 800, Wylan Burnitt won the 300 hurdles and the 4x400 relay team took first to help Countryside surge ahead.
Northeast's Jalin Hubbard was the boys running MVP. He won the 100 and 200 and took second in the 400. Seminole's Chase Sutton dominated the distance events, winning the 1,600 and 3,200.