Tuesday's Western Conference championship was kind of like the Oscars, in that you weren't wondering so much what the stars would do, but which of them would show up.
Well, everyone _ everyone with a pass, that it is _ showed up at Lake Park. Given that, everything went as expected. Plant accepted its award as the best girls team, then Leto's boys were handed top honors. Caroline Annis of Plant won the girls race, with Leto's Sean Gilman edging teammate Jeff Hill by a nose. Host Gaither was runner-up in both.
The meet was the culmination of the revamped format in which two teams from each of three divisions advanced from races last week. The system prevented several top individuals from competing in the championship, and with district meets coming up next week, there was talk that some of those who did qualify might skip the race.
Instead of giving their teams the night off, Plant girls coach Roy Harrison and Leto boys coach Bobby Ennis entered the meet with a strategy _ basically, run just well enough to win. The winning times suggest that's what they did.
Annis, a three-time state champion, ran the 3 miles in 18:41, at least a minute slower than normal. Gilman and Hill ran 15:51, at least 30 seconds off their usual pace.
"Caroline's job was to pace whoever our number two girl was," Harrison said. "She would have been about 17-flat on this course today if she had raced it all out."
"I don't know what Sean and Jeff ran," Ennis said. "They were running just to win."
Nine seconds behind Annis was teammate Jaime Patlovich, while Gaither's Alli Tatangelo was third in a personal-best 18:53. Plant had six of the top eight runners.
The boys race had a nearly identical finish to the West Hillsborough Invitational in September, the season's first meet. On a Lake Park course that was much slower at the time, Gilman and Hill jogged across the finish line side-by-side.
Gaither's Ryan Estock (15:54) was third and Bloomingdale's Dan Elkins (16:07) was fourth.