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Leto shares success as pair teams for title

Leto's boys cross country team prides itself on pack running. No one individual is supposed to stand out above his teammates, the rule goes.

And with one symbolic gesture at the end of Wednesday's Western Conference boys race at Brandon High School, the Leto runners showed why team strength has carried the program to six state titles.

Leto's Hennie Schoeman and Bobby McConnell crossed the finish line at the exact same moment with their arms linked together, finishing first in 16 minutes, 11 seconds. After running the 3-mile course together, the pair remained united to the end _ by holding hands.

"(The gesture) is an example of what a true team we are," Schoeman said. "That was by no means planned."

Leto, which won the American Division title with 24 points, had four other runners place in the top 10 of the division. The runners from the American and National divisions ran together in a departure from the norm.

Yet, it was Leto that dominated the race, with Schoeman, McConnell, Andrew Hasebrook (16:31), Adrian Benson (16:50) and Keith Kestler (16:51) placing in the unofficial top 10 for both divisions.

Leto was making only its second appearance in Hillsborough County after having competed mostly in out-of-town invitationals, including last week's Largo Invitational, in which the "Long Red Row" was disqualified.

"There are a lot of good runners (in Hillsborough County)," Schoeman said. "But running outside the county subjects us to more-experienced runners. That's where we learn to be better."

Schoeman and McConnell, along with Brandon's Charles Draper (16:14) and Chamberlain's Pat Bokor (16:25) overtook Plant City's Josh Fuller, who led for much of the race. Fuller placed fifth in the American Division in 16:29.

Gaither, with Darrin Miller its top finisher (17:00), tied for second in the American with Chamberlain with 76.

Robinson, much like its first-place counterpart from the American, relied on pack running to win the National Division title with 25 points. Tom Vars (16:52), Van Wagner (17:21) and Robert Schatti (17:29) led the Knights, who had six runners in the division's top 10.

Plant's Eric Mirk won the National Division title in 16:48 and was followed by teammate Mike Greiwe in 16:52. The Panthers were second in the National with 43.

Plant dominated the girls race, which also combined runners from both divisions. The Panthers, winners of three consecutive state championships, won the National Division with 16.

Caroline Annis won the National Division title, finishing second overall to Bloomingdale's Katie Mitchell. Annis won in 11:51, followed by teammate and last year's 4A champion, Rayane Lawrence (11:58).

Although the team races have become predictable, Plant's pair has made things interesting, with Annis placing ahead of Lawrence in four of six meets thus far.

"I guess we're not out to race each other when we're on the course," Annis said. "We're just trying to catch Katie (Mitchell) or whoever might be near the front."

Mitchell was at the front again Thursday, winning the American Division in 11:46. Chamberlain's Micah Adriani took second in the division by completing the course in 12:17. Katie Mitchell's sister, Jen, finished in third in the American, running in 12:21.

Bloomingdale clinched the American team title with 48.

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