The Boss Cross poised to regain state form
By Kyle LoJacono
Two years ago the Steinbrenner boys cross team was the Class 2A state runner-up in the program’s second season.
Hopes ran high entering 2011, as the returning athletes expected to stay right at the top when the Warriors moved up to 3A.
It wasn’t that easy.
Steinbrenner slipped to 12th at states last season, and the average time in the 5-kilometer race increased by nearly 3.5 seconds from the year before.
“It basically was a shock to finish as state runner-up, and it made us think that we were better than we were,” said senior Chris Cerreta. “We just thought we’d win it all when we moved up in classification, but 3A was like a whole other world. There are some really good teams, and last year showed us we need to get serious if we want to get back.”
The Warriors did come away with a district title last season, their second straight, but were upstaged at regionals by a squad just to the north
Wiregrass Ranch captured the regional championship, the program’s fourth in a row, while Steinbrenner finished fourth.
“It was a humbling experience,” said senior Zach Lima. “It really gave us a dose of humility. There are a lot of good teams in this area. Last year we finished fourth in the region, and Wiregrass Ranch beat us. They also beat us at the Mitchell Invitation. They’re a very good team up there, and we’re just trying to get better to run with the best teams in the area.”
Fortunately for the fourth-year program, all of its runners return for 2012. The top five are all seniors and include Zach and his twin brother Tyler, Cerreta, Tanner Biles and Matt Magee.
“Hopefully that means that everything is lining up for this senior year,” Zach said. “We’ve been training all of our lives for this one year. You don’t have another senior year of high school, so this is our last chance with these five guys. It’s great because we’ve all come up together, and we’re like brothers now. We’re running for each other.”
Cerreta said the team has been meeting three times a week during the summer to run, followed by work in the weight room.
“We didn’t cancel summer vacations, but we shortened them so we can practice as much as possible,” Cerreta said. “There’s been so much dedication this summer, and it’s been something really amazing to see. We’ve been doing it for four years, and we know if we’re going to do anything we have to do everything right in the summer to be at top form in November.”
Cerreta added they’ve been doing things to become a closer group.
“We’ve also been engaging in team activities and going to places and running with other teams,” Cerreta said. “Last year, we attempted to do those things, but this year we really did it, and now we’re one whole team with the same vision. … We definitely have a more structured environment, and we have a better vision of how to win a state championship. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but we’ve got that plan. Last year it was more about let’s train and see if we get back to where we were.”
Zach said they also have a new approach in competitions.
“We’re being smarter,” Zach said. “Last cross country season we weren’t really that smart during the state meet. We went out too fast. We’re going to let everyone else go out fast and be stronger for longer and smarter.”
Along with that focus, the team has come up with a new moniker to unite the program — The Boss Cross — which pays homage to the nickname of the late former owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, for whom the school is named.
“We’ve used it for awhile, but we really started referring to the program as Boss Cross during the track season,” Cerreta said. “It’s on our T-shirts and our cross country and track uniforms. It’s kind of like a rallying cry you could say.”
Along with the new nickname, the track season also witnessed renewed success for the Warriors’ distance runners.
Tyler and Zach reached the 3A state meet in the 3,200-meters, or two-mile, where they finished seventh and 10th, respectively. Magee took 11th in the 800.
The trio, along with Biles, also set a school record in the 4×800 relay by finishing in 7 minutes 57.82 seconds to take fourth at states.
“(Track season) was a strong confidence boost that what we’re doing is right,” Zach said. “We are getting better. We got better all year in the two-mile and the 4×800, and that put us out there so people know about Steinbrenner.”
Track success and revived drive have lifted the Warriors’ spirits that were damaged last November at states, but one thing remains different about the 2012 squad.
“We’re just focused on making ourselves better this year,” Cerreta said. “Last year we were looking at what other teams were doing compared to us. We’re just worried about being as good as we can be. That’s all we can control, and that’s how we’re going to measure ourselves.”
The Boss Cross opens the season at the Lecanto Invitational at Lecanto High on Sept. 8 at 8 a.m.
—Results as recorded by the Florida High School Athletic Association
Event Location Date Time
Lecanto Invitational Lecanto High Sept. 8 a.m.
West Hillsborough Meet Al Lopez Park Sept. 15 8 a.m.
North Port Invitational North Port Sept. 22 8:10 a.m.
Seffner Christian Invitational Dover Trails Sept. 29 8 a.m.
FSU/Pre-State Appalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee Oct. 6 8 a.m.
Freshmen Sophomore Meet Al Lopez Park Oct. 9 5:30 p.m.
USF Armwood Invitational* USF Golf Course Oct. 12 5:30 p.m.
Bartram Trail Invitational Bartram Trail High, St. Augustine Oct. 13 8 a.m.
Hillsborough County Championship Lake Park Oct. 19 5:30 p.m.
Class 3A-Disrict 8 Meet Al Lopez Park Nov. 2 4:30 p.m.
Regional Meet Lecanto High Nov. 10 10:10 a.m.
State Meet Appalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee Nov. 17 TBA
*Junior varsity only