Academy of the Holy Names coach Pamela Legg saw this coming way back when the season began.
She knew who she had coming back _ Sara Petrick and Aileen Fletcher. She knew who she had coming up _ Emily Rivard and Chrissy Cowart. But more important, Legg knew something she figured would complete the Jaguars equation.
"Rachel Gillman, who hadn't run with us since she was a freshman, was coming back for her senior year," Legg said. "She hasn't run for four years, but I knew she would steadily come along."
Gillman hasn't returned to the form that led her to place seventh in the state in 2000, but she has added enough to turn the Jaguars into contenders.
She finished eighth Friday at the region meet with a 3-mile time of 21 minutes, 44 seconds. Her best time as a freshman was 19:05.
But the important thing is Gillman completes Academy's top five. That turned out to be the final piece the Jaguars needed before they could go into another state meet with hopes of placing in the top 5. Or, better yet, top 4, which is the school's highest finish.
"I really just want us to finish third as a team," Petrick said after she finished second at regions to lead Academy to the title. "We finished fourth when I was in eighth grade. So I want to be higher than that."
Academy isn't the only Class 2A team looking to make its mark Saturday.
Jesuit posted a perfect score at regions, locking up positions 1-5 and making a strong case for it being the team to beat.
Junior Andy Biladeau easily won the region race in 15:54. He was followed by James Osborne, Will Sievers, Phillip Scrivner and Andrew Boza. Just in case one of them faltered, Michael Laird was ninth.
Biladeau was second last year, and the Tigers finished fourth. Jesuit won in 1998 and 2000.
Biladeau is eyeing an individual state title but will be tested by one of the toughest fields in the state. The top three times for all classes were recorded by 2A runners, including Miami Belen Jesuit's Eduardo Arguello and Miami Gulliver's Bryan Sharkey, Nos. 2 and 3.
"It's pretty exciting," Biladeau said. "But I still count for points, and every point matters. That's what's most important to me. We've blended together really well as a team, and we're working together.
"If we put in the work, we'll reap the benefits."
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: Class 4A _ Girls: Spanish River, Boys: Winter Park; Class 3A _ Girls: Plant, Boys: Flagler Palm Coast; Class 2A _ Girls: Miami Lourdes, Boys: Bishop Kenny; Class A _ Girls: Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal, Boys: Tallahassee Maclay.
LOCAL QUALIFIERS (top five runners from regions): Class 4A _ Girls: Bloomingdale (Jaclyn Johnson, Tiffany Tucker, Janelle Karlen, Heather Hightower, Lindsey Cull); Individuals: Amanda Quick, Gaither; Kathryn Kramer, Gaither; Katie Quick, Gaither; Class 3A _ Girls: Wharton (Tiffanie Saxton, Nicole Stanley, Maria Cevallos, Kristin Galbraith, Jessica Wooden); Plant (Whitney Banker, Maggie Daly, Lauren Bridges, Katherine Wagner, Kara Manelli); Sickles (Shannon Kelly, Jennifer Snyder, Marissa Hatcher, Kristyn Smith, Jamie Winholtz); Individuals: Laura Bowerman, King; Paige Williams, East Bay; Jill Greer, Hillsborough. Boys: Plant (Jeremy Meyer, Sam Gibbons, Jeremiah Matthews, Hunter Stanford, Justin Corbett); Wharton (Paul Pakidis, Jose Rodriguez, Baker Burchfield, Kevin Kniery, Will Folks); King (James Toohey, Luke Maiorella, Nathan Walker, Jonathan Bowerman, Phillip Crowe); Brandon (Orssie Bumpus, Gibil Felix, Jeremey Lautzenheiser, Benjamin Henderson, Dylan Hernandez); Individuals: Matthew Broderick, Alonso; Evander Jones, Jefferson; Ryan Courtoy, Armwood. Class 2A _ Girls: Academy of the Holy Names (Sara Petrick, Aileen Fletcher, Chrissy Cowart, Rachel Gillman, Emily Rivard); Boys: Jesuit (Andy Biladeau, James Osborne, Will Sievers, Phillip Scrivner, Andrew Boza). Class A _ Girls: Berkeley Prep (Farrah Elchahal, Rachel Borrelli, Jane Elizabeth Watts, America Deupree, Raiza Cabral).
_ Compiled by Mike Readling.