While the Northside Christian girls are in no position to defend their three-time state championship status this year, the Mustangs still boast Pinellas County's best chance for an individual state champion. With Brianne Harrington already making a name for herself as a freshman at Auburn, the Mustang reigns have been passed to Erin Giesa.
Giesa will begin Northside's quest for a fourth straight individual title in today's Class 2A, District 5 race at Lake Seminole Park _ which happens to be one of Giesa's favorites since she lives nearby.
The top 15 individuals advance to the state meet and as many as four teams also move on. The Class 4A, 5A and 6A district races are this week with the top 15 individuals as well as up to eight teams depending on the race size.
After a decent start to her sophomore season, Giesa has turned up her performance from one of the county's best to one of the state's best. She has turned in a few of the season's fastest times and credits some of her success to Harrington, who she has been in constant contact with via the internet and telephone.
"She is like a big sister to me," Giesa said after winning the Keswick Invitational.
Although Giesa is only a sophomore, she already has an interest in attending Auburn.
CLASS 6A, DISTRICT 4: Today's race has been moved from its usual Lake Park site to Al Lopez Park, but that doesn't change the favorites. The Leto boys and the Bloomingdale girls are the defending champions. Boys individual winner Sean Gilman has transferred from Bloomingdale to Leto, making the Falcons an even more serious state championship threat.
East Lake is the lone Pinellas team in the district and Sean McCabe figures to be one of the top finishers. The Eagle girls should also advance and the boys have a shot after a fourth-place finish at the PCAC meet.
CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 5: This is where the bulk of the county runners _ from 12 teams _ meet at 4 p.m. today at Taylor Park.
According to Largo coach Mike Beck, whose teams will be near the top, them meet was switched from Crescent Lake, last year's site, for three reasons: a lack of restroom facilities at Crescent Lake, an unwelcomed feeling by the residents and the sidewalks.
"It should be a lot like it was last week (at the PCAC meet)," Beck said. "Once you funnel everyone out, you should have the same outcome unless somebody gets hurt."
Dunedin's Dane Hair defends his title. Although the top 15 runners advance, the state has only allotted ribbons for the top 10.
CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 2: The Clearwater Central Catholic boys and girls won last year. St. Petersburg Catholic hosts at 4 p.m. Nov. 13.
_ ERIC VICIAN