(ran NTP edition)
The obvious finally became reality at last week's Western Conference cross-country championships, so the Leto boys squad will have to make more room in their trophy case.
At the culmination of the new meet that some coaches deemed unfair and unnecessary, Leto's and Gaither's boys teams finished 1-2. On the girls' side, Gaither and Leto finished behind Plant.
In a new format this season, the top two teams from the three divisions of the Western Conference advanced to the title meet. Controversy arose, however, with the format's setup that qualified top teams, not individuals, to advance to the championships. Although some coaches mentioned skipping the conference meet to prepare for this week's district meets, all those invited did compete. Boys teams were Leto, Gaither, Plant, Bloomingdale, Robinson and Sickles. Plant, Leto, Gaither, Sickles, Brandon and Wharton sent girls teams.
Sean Gilman and Jeff Hill, Leto's one-two combination, finished together in 15:51 to earn the Falcons the title. Because he is designated as the Falcons' No. 1 runner, Gilman was awarded first place in the tie. The Cowboys' Ryan Estock was three seconds behind to place third, while teammate Adam Rice was fifth with a 16:10 finish. On the girls' side, Alli and Beth Tatangelo placed third (18:53) and seventh (19:33), respectively, to pace Gaither to second place. Alli's time was a personal best.
The Sickles boys placed sixth, while the Sickles girls placed fifth, followed by the Wharton girls squad. The district cross-country meets begin Monday.
The dream ended for Sickles Thursday night, as the Gryphons lost 15-12, 15-10 to Palm Harbor University in the Class 4A-12 district final. Still, in what could only be called a surprising season for the first-year team, the Gryphons advanced to the regional tournament. Sickles (11-5) will travel to face Auburndale Tuesday in the 4A, South I matchup.
Gaither senior Emily Spychala captured the Western Conference American Division diving title last week at the Bobby Hicks Pool. She topped that by winning the overall conference crown, totaling a 524.15 score on her 11 dives. The title was her third in as many years.
Swimming in its first conference championship, the senior-less Wharton Wildcat girls team placed fourth among the county's top squads, while the boys were fifth. However, the Wildcats did win the conference's National Division crown to advance to the finals. The girls squad placed six swimmers in the finals, and the boys placed seven. The Wildcats had no individuals place at the conference finals but don't have a long wait to get back in the water. The Class 4A, District 5 meet is Nov. 15 at Seminole Osceola.
Gaither's boys placed fifth among the conference swimmers, followed by Sickles, who tied for seventh with Tampa Bay Tech. The Chamberlain girls team finished third, with Gaither (5th) and Sickles (7th) in tow.
Teams from Durant, Bloomingdale, Plant, Brandon, King and Plant City also competed.