Second-year school has big goals for district tournament
By Kyle LoJacono
Before a team can consistently win it needs confidence in itself and Steinbrenner High boys cross country runners now have that belief in their abilities.
The Warriors enter this week’s Class 2A, District 5 tournament, which is Nov. 4 at Al Lopez Park in Tampa, ranked No. 6 in the state by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association. Steinbrenner has also won four of the first eight meets it has participated in this season.
“The biggest thing is this year we know we can win any event we’re in,” said senior Alex Newby, who is Steinbrenner’s No. 1 runner. “… Last year we just didn’t feel that way. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams at meets and we’re ready to do the same thing in districts.”
One of the changes this year for the Warriors is the addition of coach Bobby McConnell, who taught and coached at Gaither High last year.
“We have a lot of great runners who really enjoy cross country,” said McConnell, who teaches social studies at Steinbrenner. “Everyone has gotten much better since we started in the summer and we have a lot of depth. Alex is our fastest runner, Dan Sarver is our second fastest and after that, anyone is third through sixth at any race.”
Newby said his best time in the 5K (5 kilometers or 3.1 miles) is 16 minutes and 38 seconds.
The Warriors team has 24 runners, but many watching the team likely think there are two less. The reason is there are two sets of twins on the roster, both sets born on March 13. The older set is Dan and Matt Sarver, seniors.
“We’re a lot closer this year and that’s probably just because we’ve spent two years together as a team since the school opened,” said Matt, whose personal best in the 5K is 16:46. “We put in a lot of miles during the summer and that has been the biggest help. We had the 500 mile club and we tried to get everyone to put in 500 miles of running during the summer.”
Dan’s personal best is a little behind Matt’s at 17:21, but he took last year off from cross country to play football for the Warriors.
“I learned how much I love cross country when I took that year off,” Dan said. “I’m glad I came back to the sport and I think we’re good enough to come in the top two or three in districts.”
The younger set of twins is Zach and Tyler Lima, sophomores. The two have seen improvement from summer workouts like the Sarvers, but also from new methods brought by McConnell.
“We did a lot of running last year, but our new coach creates more individual workouts for us,” Zach said, whose personal best is 17:16. “I liked our old coach and everything, but coach Bobby seems to be able to work with us individually a little better.”
Both sets of twins are fraternal, not identical, but they look very similar to their sibling.
“It’s funny at meets if we both get on the medal stand,” Zach said. “People look at us both weird sometimes because we look so alike.”
While Newby and the Sarver twins spent two years at Sickles High before coming to Steinbrenner, the Limas have only been Warriors.
“I really feel lucky that we’re getting to start the cross country program at the school,” said Tyler, whose personal best is 17:17. “The older guys on the team won’t be here for four years like my brother and me. We’ll be part of the first class that spends four years here and we’ve got all that time to get the team to the top level.”
While the Warriors are No. 6 in the state, they have very tough competition in their district from Jesuit High and Berkeley Preparatory, both in the top five.