Indian Rocks Christian senior Nathan Holden and Frostproof's Omar Galarza were engaged in a nice little duel at the 2-mile mark at Friday's Class A, Region 2 cross country meet at Taylor Park.
And Golden Eagle Tim Rousonelos was fighting it out with Frostproof's Barvan Alvarado.
And right behind them, two more Golden Eagles and two more Frostproof runners.
The perfect recipe for a suspenseful finish.
Unless you were Indian Rocks coach Kris Williams, who might haved stifled a yawn.
"I knew then," Williams said, "that our guys were going to pull away. They always do."
Right he was. The Golden Eagles grabbed five of the top nine spots and what looked like a close race wasn't as Indian Rocks rolled to the region championship by a 26-52 advantage over Frostproof.
The victory gave Indian Rocks the team sweep, as the girls were 80-90 winners over Berkeley Prep.
The boys, who won last year's regional by two points, had plenty of breathing room this time. Holden was the individual winner in 16 minutes, 31 seconds, while Tim Rousonelos was third, Mike Mayleben sixth, Zach Rousonelos seventh and Matt Kotchman ninth. The team's average time was 17:05, better than all but two other runners.
In the girls race, Melissa Kotchman was an easy winner in 19:45, though that was 49 seconds slower than her winning time on the same course this year.
Kotchman said she didn't feel well the last two miles, and even survived a trip in the final mile to win comfortably.
Her victory helped Indian Rocks gain a measure of revenge on Berkeley Prep, who two weeks ago beat the Golden Eagles by eight points to capture the Bay Conference title.
But seventh-grader Janelle Hewelle was ill that day, finishing 17th, and healthy on Friday she turned in a 21:03 for eighth.
"The difference was their No. 2 being healthy," said Berkeley Prep coach Eileen Daly.
Indian Rocks, Shorecrest (third place) and Keswick (fourth) all advanced to next week's state meet.
Joining the Indian Rocks boys at state will be Keswick, which was fifth (behind William Werly's fourth-place individual finish) and Shorecrest (sixth).
The lone individual qualifier was Admiral Farragut's Ben James, who was 14th.
FORT MYERS _ It wasn't the finish Largo coach Mike Beck wanted for the Packer girls, but it was the result he wanted: a trip to the Nov. 8 Class 3A state meet.
Largo placed third in Friday morning's Class 3A, Region 3 meet, 34 points behind region champion Manatee and eight behind runner-up Fort Myers at the Lee County Sports Complex.
"We were just a little bit off," Beck said. "We still obviously couldn't have beaten Manatee. They're good. But we could have been second, but we'll take third and get ready for next week."
Deanna Drugash led the Packers to the finish, placing 17th with a time of 21 minutes, 10 seconds, according to Beck. Drugash, Largo's only senior, said it was not a course for fast times, as runners battled strong winds and tall grass with no shade from the heat.
"I think we had a pretty good performance," Drugash said. "We had a hard race. The course was hard for everybody and everybody had injuries to overcome."
Wrapping up Largo's third-place finish was Layla Hall, who placed 19th (21:16); Amanda Mills, 25th (21:30); Kaley Matthews, 27th (21:33); and Sara Bass, 30th (21:38).
"We just hope we get a top-10 finish next week," Beck said. "I think that's a legitimate goal for us."
_ JAMAL THALJI
TAMPA _ Jesuit posted a perfect score by placing all five of its runners in positions 1-5 to win the region crown. The Tigers were followed by Hernando, Immokalee, St. Petersburg Catholic, Lemon Bay and Bishop Verot, all of which will go to state.
St. Petersburg Catholic took fourth place thanks to Robert Yevich's 12th place finish in 17:30 and Sam Secord in 14th with a time of 17:40.On the girls side it was Gulf's Danielle Florey taking home the individual title with a three-mile time of 20:34, beating Academy of the Holy Names' Sara Petrick by 11 seconds. Academy won the team title with a score of 35, beating Gulf by 29 points. Hernando, St. Petersburg Catholic, LaBelle and Bishop Verot rounded out the top six and will all be back at Ed Radice Park Saturday for the state championships.
_ MIKE READLING