By Eugenio Torrens
Steinbrenner’s cross country teams moved up in classification this year, but the Warriors showed they can run with anyone by winning Class 3A-District 8 meets Nov. 4.
The boys used an average time of 16:50.86, which translated in all seven members finishing in the top-11 spots. Tyler Lima led the Warriors with his third-place pace of 16:23.67.
Lauren Garris crossed the finish line in third place with a 20:29.11 for the girls team. The dual-sports athlete — she also plays soccer — was disappointed with her position.
“It was like one or two minutes, big difference,” Garris said of her time behind first-place finisher Sarah Hartman, of Sickles, who ran a 19:33.52.
It is the second straight district title for the Warriors boys, while the girls finished as the runner-up last season.
Gaither’s Rachel Cazares clocked in at 20:44.51 to nab fourth place and was the lone Cowboy to advance.
“We were expecting definitely her to be in the top 10, but we were not expecting fourth,” said Cazares’s coach, Amber Traci.
In 4A-6, there was no topping Plant, which attained perfect scores of 15 in both the boys and girls races.
Freedom girls coach, Dwight Smith, knew the Panthers would not be dethroned.
“They competed the first two miles with Plant — we knew they were going to break away, but I’m happy that they fought really hard,” Smith said.
“It’s great for me, it’s great for the team, it’s great for Freedom High School,” Smith added about his team finishing as district runner-up.
Under second-year coach Greg Lewandowski, the Freedom boys squeaked into regionals with a team score of 88, five points better than Wharton. Because there were only six full teams in the 4A-6 meet, only the top three advanced.
“We got such a young team. … We’ve got so much room for improvement over the next year,” Lewandowski said. “This is our second year making it to regionals, and we’re just climbing the ladder.”
Adam Urbaniak’s finished in sixth place and was the first Patriot to finish the 5-kilometer race in 17:27.86. He said he was in 10th place when he started picking off runners ahead of him — except for the Plant runners.
“The Plant guys are hard, they’re all great runners. They know what they’re doing, so it’s tough to pass those guys,” Urbaniak said.
Urbaniak admitted he was just hoping for top 15, so finishing sixth surpassed his expectations.
Wharton girls runners Taylor Griffith and Mariah Henderson finished in 10th and Mariah Henderson finished in 13th to advance individually. No boys Wildcats qualified.
Both Freedom teams and the Wildcats who qualified will race in the regional meet at McIntosh Middle on Saturday, Nov. 12. Steinbrenner and Cazares will compete at Lecanto High on Saturday, Nov. 12, where they will face off against defending regional champs Wiregrass Ranch.
“Now we’re just focusing on Wiregrass Ranch and region, because they’re the team that beat us bad the first two meets of the year,” Lima said. “So we just have to get revenge and beat them.”