Seminole's boys and girls are heading to state, but for the first time in a long time that fact is mildly surprising.
Especially for the once-powerful boys, who were expecting to rebuild this season. Instead, they are headed to state, finishing sixth with 146 points to grab the final qualifying spot from Saturday's Region 3 meet at Taylor Park.
The Largo boys also advanced, taking fifth.
The Seminole girls finished second, ahead of third-place Largo for the first time this season.
"It's a real good day," Seminole coach Bruce Calhoun said. "I knew we had a good girls team, and I knew the boys would be struggling. But it was a matter of staying in there, and they did. It's easy to lighten up, take it easy and give up, but these guys are now finishing the season."
Ken Magee was the top Warhawk, taking fifth in 16 minutes, 37 seconds, and Steve Anderson was 11th in 16:55.
The Mitchell boys, led by individual winner Jeff Masterson, easily won the title with 46 points.
The Seminole girls scored 71 as Naples took the title with 53.
Largo was third with 79 but ran shorthanded. In fact, the Packers ran with no margin for error as Abby Hunter was unable to run more than a few yards because of an ankle injury, leaving the Packers with five runners, the minimum needed for a team score.
"Abby just basically lined up because we didn't want the other teams knowing we only had five runners," Largo coach Mike Beck said.
Sophomore Layla Hall (20:02) was second overall, behind winner Elizabeth Figlesthaler of Naples Lely, and Deanna Drugash (20:36) used a surge before the finish to end up eighth for Largo.
But for the first time all season, the best Pinellas team was not the Packers. Seminole used a fourth-place finish from Lauren Vogel (20:10) and top-21 finishes from the pack of Carly Stransky, Meagan Geisa and Madeline Parholo in their best showing this season.
The Warhawks have chased Largo all season, getting closer with every meet before finally passing them, at least for this week. It is a reversal of last season, when Largo chased Seminole and finally finished ahead at the region meet, though the Warhawks took back top honors at state.
"We just wanted to come out and run the best that we could," said Lindsey Walker, Seminole's fifth finisher. "If that means beating Largo, then that's a good thing too."
The top 15 finishers in each race not on teams that advance also earned a trip to state, including Boca Ciega's Brett Sapp (ninth) and Clearwater's Alexandria Lechner, who was 12th.
Allen able to advance
ORLANDO _ St. Petersburg freshman Kerry Allen, unable to finish the district meet because of an injury, qualified for the state meet Saturday.
Allen ran at the front in Saturday's Region 2 meet and finished third in 18:49. The rain and mud didn't trip her, and although her team didn't finish in the top six, Allen qualified as an individual.
"If it weren't for my teammates, I would not even be here today," Allen said. "They qualified for this meet without me and I ran today to pay them back and say thank you. The course was not so bad. There were a lot of small hills that slowed me down, but the rain didn't hurt. I will miss my teammates at the state meet."
Orlando Boone won, scoring 46 points. Oak Ridge was second with 88.
St. Petersburg finished ninth with 230 and Palm Harbor U. was 11th with 245.
"Kerry ran well today and earned a trip to the state tournament," Green Devils coach Eden Graisbery said. "I think they all knew last week, that when Kerry dropped from the race they had to all pull together to get here. This team has a lot of spirit and they had a great season."
Also scoring for St. Petersburg were Katherine Galloway, Myra Wilson, Amber McClain and Megan Robison.
Scoring points for Palm Harbor were Rebekah Lindsey, Kerrie Savery, Stacy Brown, Jennifer Cole and Kristina Jones.
In the boys race, Orlando Boone continued to dominate, scoring 62 and distancing second-place Cypress Creek by 41 points.
Slippery grass and muddy sand pits didn't slow the front-runners Saturday. They seemed to add additional kick to overcome the conditions.
Individual champion Kostyantyn Federenko of Leto crossed the line in 16 minutes, 6.78 seconds.
"I thought the race would be even harder, with all the good runners in the meet," Federenko said. "But after the second mile, they dropped fast."
The top six teams and top 15 runners not on those teams qualified for next week's state meet.
Oak Ridge placed third, followed by Leto, Sarasota Riverview and Bloomingdale.
St. Petersburg junior Jeremy Meyer was the top finisher for Pinellas County. He finished 24th.
"This was a bad race for me," Meyer said. "I just wasn't prepared for it. The rain didn't really bother me today, I just wasn't focused like I should have been."
St. Petersburg was the only county boys team to compete, finishing 12th.
"I think our guys did well for having such high-caliber competition," St. Petersburg coach Robb Townsend said. "I was pleased with our season though. Any time a team can qualify for the regionals, it is a good season."
In addition to Meyer, the St. Petersburg runners included Clayton Hofstra, Nagy Thomas, James Banfield and Akash Patel.
_ TERRY JONES