By Steve Lee
WESLEY CHAPEL — Land O’ Lakes’ Matt Schwartz won the Sunshine Athletic Conference boys meet, but that individual effort was not enough to stave off Wiregrass Ranch’s first team title.
It was not, however, the first cross country crown in that school’s three-year history. The Wiregrass Ranch girls defended the SAC championship they won last year.
Wiregrass Ranch, led by runner-up Ryan Pulsifer, placed four runners in the top 10 of the boys race at J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park. The three others were Delonzo Sharp, Logan Selzer and Josh Reilly.
“It’s kind of like a launching pad for the entire postseason,” Wiregrass Ranch boys coach Chris Loth said.
The team victory helped the Bulls get past last year’s disappointment when they finished just one point behind Land O’ Lakes as the conference runner-up.
“It was a tough pill to swallow for us, because we felt we could have won,” Loth said of last year’s race. “This year was redemption. That’s kind of the way we look at it.”
Schwartz, the meet favorite who earlier this season took first in the Mitchell Invitational, won the boys race in 16 minutes, 49 seconds. That extended the Gators’ stranglehold on the individual title. Felix Soto won three straight SAC runs after Steven Bell won the 2005 race.
Land O’ Lakes, which took third, was the only other boys team with multiple finishers in the top 10. Hendrix Lafontant was fifth and Zack Lonsway sixth.
In the girls race, Mitchell’s Kelli Williams posted a winning time of 20:19. Runner-up Nikita Shah, who finished just one second behind, was the fastest among five Wiregrass Ranch girls in the top eight. The others were defending SAC champion Ariel Grey, Taylor Hixson, Alex Diepholz and Kelsey Sturman.
As for the Land O’ Lakes girls, Renae Porsch, Morgan Keppel and Lailoni Kailimai cracked the top 10.
In the Prestate meet at Little Everglades Ranch that preceded the conference runs, Pasco’s Anthony Plourde placed seventh in the Small School division.
Class 3A, District 3
When: Nov. 5. Girls run at 4:30 p.m.; boys at 5 p.m.
Location: Crews Lake Park.
Local teams: Gulf, Hudson, Land O’ Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch and Zephyrhills.
Class 2A, District 3
When: Nov. 4. Girls run at 4:30 p.m.; boys at 5 p.m.
Location Crystal River.
Local teams: Pasco and Wesley Chapel.
Class A, District 5
When: Nov. 5. Girls run at 10:15 a.m.; boys at 11 a.m.
Location: Taylor Park.
Local teams: Academy at the Lakes, Carrollwood Day Prep.