Freedom girls place third
By Jeff Odom
As the sun rose above Lake Park, a momentary pause of silence gave way to celebration as the Steinbrenner boys cross country team was announced winners of the Hillsborough County Championship Oct. 19.
The Warriors scored 56 points, edging out Plant by just three to win the 28-team event for the first time in the program’s four-year history.
“This is great,” said senior Matt Magee, who finished third overall by completing the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes 29.4 seconds. “It’s our first (county) championship ever. It’s a great win for the team. We’re all seniors, so we’re not going to come back next year, so it’s a big win for all the seniors.”
Along with Magee, Steinbrenner’s top times were turned in by seniors Tyler Lima (16:44.3) and Tanner Biles (16:53.1), who finished sixth and eighth, respectively. Zach Lima (17:30.7) finished 19th and Chris Cerreta (17:33.5) placed 22nd.
Bobby Ennis, who has also worked with the Warriors since the school opened in 2009, said to watch the team grow has been one of the most amazing sights he has ever seen.
“It’s special, because (the seniors have) been with us for four years,” Ennis said. “Year 1, as freshmen, with no sports, these guys were automatically varsity by default. They’ve matured. They’re great kids.”
Heat and humidity was a big factor early at the event in Lutz, as some runners struggled halfway through the event.
Magee said Steinbrenner was ready because of the extensive offseason training done during the summer, including running the Lutz Independence Day 5K, which he won.
“Oh my gosh, we’ve been preparing since Day 1 of summer,” Magee said. “We ran over summer and almost ran about 600 miles each. So, we trained pretty hard, and we’ve been competing hard.”
Elsewhere at the meet, Freedom finished 13th with 365, Wharton placed 18th with 552 and Gaither ended up 23rd with 693.
Other top times were turned in by Freedom’s Adam Urbaniak (17:56.4), who finished 31st, and Carrollwood Day School’s (CDS) Austin Ham (19:25.8).
On the girls side, Freedom finished third behind Newsome and district rival Plant with 129 points.
Juniors Annie Tedesco (20:17.5) and Lauren Arfaras (20:28.9) were the Patriots’ best finishers, placing eighth and 12th, respectively.
Tedesco said her mind was focused on earning a good finish.
“I felt pretty good,” Tedesco said. “I was just trying to stay in the top 10 and trying to (make a personal record). I really felt like I went as hard as I could.”
Freedom coach Dwight Smith said he felt his team is finally beginning to come together and believes people will respect his runners more.
“I felt all year they didn’t have us in the top three; I knew that we were better than what they’ve had us,” Smith said. “All year long, we really haven’t ran our entire varsity together … and it feels like we’re peaking at the right time. I don’t think we’ve ran our best yet.”
Other notable times were turned in by Wharton’s Mariah Henderson, who placed 16th with a 20:49.40 and CDS’s Lauren Meany (21:26.6), who finished 28th.
Wharton finished ninth with 253 points, Steinbrenner placed 11th with 262 points and CDS scored 582 points and was 19th overall.
The Warriors did not have a runner finish in the top-40 as Jenna Malone (22:17) placed 43rd. Senior Lauren Garris (23:16.1), who is still recovering from an appendectomy prior to the season, finished 69th.
The next challenge for area cross country teams is districts. Freedom and Wharton compete in the Class 4A-District 6 meet at Al Lopez Park in Tampa Nov. 1. Steinbrenner and Gaither run as part of the 3A-8 event at Lake Park Nov. 2, while CDS is in the 1A-8 race at Taylor Park in Largo Nov. 1.