No one was going to catch Naples' Lindsay Gualario on Saturday morning at the Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Taylor Park, but the Largo girls didn't seem to mind. They caught something bigger: Seminole.
Living up to their team nickname by running in a strong pack, the Packers were able to overcome a 2-3 finish by Seminole's Nicole Ferraro and Sarah Stargel to take second place behind champion Estero, which scored 72 points.
Largo's Abby Hunter (15th), Deanna Drugush (16th), Layla Hall (21st), Sara Bass (22nd) and Kateland Harte (30th) all finished within 40 seconds of each other to give Largo 91 points. Seminole was third with 95 points and Naples had 97.
"We've been close to them (Seminole) all year and we finally caught them," said Largo coach Mike Beck, whose team has been first or second at every meet this season but never ahead of Seminole. "This is a good morale builder."
It surprised Seminole, which outscored Largo last week 35-58 to win districts.
"I was really impressed with them," said Ferraro, who ran a career-best 18:54.28 to finish second. Stargel was right behind in third at 18:54.93.
The Seminole boys fared no better than the girls, as top runner Gordon Redshaw (15:24) and the team both took fourth in a very close race.
The top four teams were separated by just 11 points. The Warhawks had 116, behind winner Lakewood Ranch (105), Lely (108) and Estero (111).
As the sixth-place and final team to qualify, Largo squeaked into the state meet Nov. 17 at Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa by finishing one point ahead of Port Charlotte, which had a better average time than the Packers (16:22 to 16:31) but was outscored at No. 3 by 20 points.
Following his district title last week, Redshaw ran eight seconds faster but was almost a minute behind Lely's Eric Beights, who won in 14:38. Clearwater's Brian Calder also qualified for state as an individual, finishing 12th.
4A-2:Palm Harbor U.
misses its No. 3 runner
ORLANDO _ Jen Cole normally runs in the No. 3 position for Palm Harbor University's girls cross country team, and makes a big difference in the final score when she is in the lineup.
However, on Saturday, she was on the sideline leaning on crutches. She suffered a broken foot in the Largo Invitational, which ended her season.
Without Cole, Palm Harbor's girls finished ninth with 206 points.
Palm Harbor's boys also placed ninth with 257. St. Petersburg's boys, the only other local team in the meet, placed 13th with 281.
"Jen is only a freshman, but she makes a difference in our team," Palm Harbor coach Darryl Southard said. "Healthy, she could very well have helped the whole team qualify. But Kerrie (Savery) and Rebekah (Lindsey), our 1 and 2, had great runs and both qualified for the state meet next week as individuals."
The top six teams and top 15 individual finishers advanced to the state meet Nov. 17 at Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa.
Savery, a sophomore, finished 10th with a time of 19 minutes, 25 seconds and Lindsey, a junior, finished 13th in 19:29.
Juniors Stacy Brown and Anjali Srinivasan ran third and fourth for Palm Harbor and finished 59th and 71st, respectively. Freshman Stephanie Bernardo, the team's fifth runner, placed 74th.
Palm Harbor's top boys finisher, Anthony Popick, placed 20th. Clayton Hofstre was the top finisher for St. Petersburg's boys. He placed 21st.
_ TERRY JONES