For the better part of Molly Harry's fledgling athletic life, basketball has been her passion. And like any good point guard, the Plant sophomore is starting to prove she can move effectively without the ball.
Competing in only the second organized 5K of her life, Harry outkicked Hillsborough junior Morgan Parker and Panthers teammate Lizzie Goodwin down the final 300 yards to win the girls title Tuesday evening at the West Hillsborough Invitational at Al Lopez Park.
The victory, in 20:17, came four days after Harry's 16th birthday and only six or so months after she took up distance running. Following a futile tryout for flag football once basketball ended, she took a stab at the 800 meters for the track squad.
According to Harry, girls track/cross country coach Roy Harrison told her she had to finish the 800 in three minutes. She did it in 2:55.
"It's been quite an interesting trip," said Harry, who ran her first 5K in May in Hyde Park. "You work up to this and you kind of want it to really happen and when it does happen, you're just like, 'Yes, this is awesome.'"
Harry's effort highlighted a dominant day for Plant, which placed seven runners - all underclassmen - in the top 12 to win by 80 points. Junior Lizzie Goodwin finished third (20:26), two seconds behind Parker.
The Panthers were nearly as dominant on the boys side. Plant placed five in the top 10 to coast to the team title with 27 points. Jesuit (71) was second.
Diminutive junior Bo Nalsen (first name's pronounced Boo) slipped past Robinson senior Bryan Garcia over the final tenth of a mile to capture his first prep race in a personal-best 16:16. Garcia was two seconds behind; Sickles' Julian Gines (16:39) was third.
Plant's top five finishers eclipsed 17:30.
"(Garcia) sort of got me a little bit at the end before you turn to the bridge (for the final one-tenth mile), but I just knew I had to get on to the bridge before him," Nalsen said. "I saw the end and had to kick it in, but it was really close."
Girls individual: M. Harry (Pl) 20:17, M. Parker (Hil) 20:24, L. Goodwin (Pl) 20:26, C. Gibson (Pl) 20:38, K. Halfaker (Pl) 20:44, J. Rodriguez (Pl) 21:01 . Girls team: Plant 19, Academy of the Holy Names 99, Berkeley Prep 115, Sickles 134, Tampa Prep 148
Boys individual: B. Nalsen (Pl) 16:16, B. Garcia (Rob) 16:18, J. Gines (Sic) 16:39, B. Lopez (Jes) 16:50, T. Christenberry (Pl) 17:07, D. Barjon (Pl) 17:12. Boys team: Plant 27, Jesuit 71, Sickles 107, Robinson 123, Berkeley Prep 133