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Leto and Plant rule the road

The Leto boys and girls both won their ends of the Western Conference American Division cross-country meet Monday despite not placing any runners in the top two spots of either race. In the National Division meet at Gibsonton, the Plant Panthers duplicated Leto's feat, winning both the boys and girls races.

The Leto boys team, looking to tune up before defending its state title next month, scored 33 points while placing five runners in the top 10. Senior Chuck Gale finished third in a time of 15 minutes, 52 seconds to pace the Falcons.

Plant City junior Mike Anderson, who led wire-to-wire, won his third meet of the season, recording a 15:27 in the American Division race on the three-mile course at Walden Park.

"It was hot and humid, and I had a little trouble breathing," Anderson said. "But the course was sandy and had some fairly tall grass, and I was hoping the other guys would tire out. I just wanted to get out to the lead early."

Gaither also finished strong in the American team standings, placing two boys in the top four and three in the top 10. Kyle Hoge was second with a 15:42, and fourth-place Mark Smith (15:56) was sandwiched between Leto runners Gale and Valdo Pehna (fifth). Leto's Jimmy Sellers was sixth.

The Cowboys wound up with 67 points, 15 better than third-place Bloomingdale (82), which placed all five scoring runners in the top 21. Seventh-place Adam Young (16:11) spurred the Bulls.

On the girls side, Leto placed all five scoring runners in the top 13 to total 45 points and defeat Brandon (80) and Bloomingdale (91) for the division title.

Brandon's Jenny Dowd completed the 2-mile course in 12:20 to claim the individual title. Runner-up Kelly Fuller of Plant City clocked a 12:37, while Chamberlain's Shar Crader was third.

The victorious Falcons were paced by Lisa Karr and Melissa Thomas. Karr outdueled Thomas for the fourth spot.

"This race, and the entire season, has really been a team effort," Leto girls coach Billy Weed said. "We have had four different No. 1 runners this year, so nobody really knows who is better than anyone else; I certainly can't predict."

In the National Division girls race, Plant won easily, scoring 21 points to runner-up East Bay's 39 at Bull Frog Creek Park. East Bay's Viivi Tiainen won the individual race, followed by four Plant runners: Lori Beicher, Beth Rooks, Diane Chalk and Ellen Herbert.

In the boys race, Plant edged Armwood 37-39. Armwood's Daryl Allen and Mike Sheppard finished 1-2, but the Panthers' Mike Barrs (third), Brian DeCosmo (fourth), Steve Wilkerson (seventh) and Paul Nelson (eighth) scored well enough to carry Plant to the victory.

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