For Erin Bailey, it's nice to have company in front of the pack, even when your stomach gives way on that last leg.
At Tuesday's Central Hillsborough Invitational, the Wharton senior had junior teammate Abby Ritter beside her throughout a rain-dampened course at King High School.
They exchanged verbal encouragement through short breaths, occasionally an elbow nudge for support, and when Bailey threw up some 800 meters before the finish, Ritter was there to pat her on the back without either girl breaking stride.
"Mentally, it's nice to have a teammate there to exert her energy and reassure you instead of an opponent trying to push you out of the way and beat you," said Bailey, who said she throws up nearly every race in the final mile.
Ritter and Bailey finished 1-2, two seconds apart, leading Wharton to a boys-girls sweep. The Wildcats girls edged King 27-53 while the boys, paced by the first-place finish of senior Nick Swain (17:18), edged Chamberlain 32-35, which followed with second-place finisher Max Del Monte (17:19) and Jake Covington (17:35) in third place.
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Newsome gets sweep
LITHIA - The Newsome girls dominated the East Hillsborough Invitational, with three runners in the top five. Sydney Coates led all girls with a time of 23:17. Brandon's Shelby Williams was second (23:37), followed by the Wolves' Brianna Jackson and Shelby Boyle.
The girls took the team title with 36 points, followed by Bloomingdale (63) and Plant City (97).
The Newsome boys protected their turf as Michael Zwijacz won the opening race of his season. He finished in 18:06 and Newsome had five runners in the top 10. Second place was decided by one second as Michael Babinec of Riverview (18:19) edged East Bay's Derrick Miranda.
Cason Ulmer, Times correspondent
Central Hillsborough Invitational at King
Boys individual: N. Swain (Whar) 17:18, M. Del Monte (Ch) 17:19, J. Covington (Ch), 17:35. Boys team: Wharton 32, Chamberlain 35, Armwood 81
Girls individual: A. Ritter (Whar) 20:50, E. Bailey (Whar) 20:52, D. Cune (King) 20:53. Girls team: Wharton 27, King 53, Freedom 82
East Hillsborough Invitational at Newsome
Girls individual: S. Coates (New) 23:17, S. Williams (Bran) 23:37, B. Jackson (New) 23:59. Girls team: Newsome 36, Bloomingdale 63, Plant City 97
Boys individual: M. Zwijacz (New) 18:06, M. Babinec (Riv) 18:19, D. Miranda (EB) 18:20. Boys team: Newsome, 29, Durant 82, Brandon 102