By Kyle LoJacono
The Steinbrenner boys cross country team finished as a regional runner-up for the first time in the program’s four-year history Nov. 10 at Lecanto High.
The Warriors took three of the top-10 spots to total 55 points, 14 behind Sarasota.
“We really wanted to beat Sarasota,” said Tyler Lima. “We wanted to try and get between their top two guys. Matt (Magee) had a good chance to win it because he was out front late, but he fell back with about a half mile left. When I saw that I started to push and moved from eighth to fourth. I wasn’t going to let that second Sarasota guy beat me.”
Tyler took fourth by completing the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes 11 seconds. It is the best personal performance at regionals for the senior, who placed eighth at the same event last year with a 16:44.
“That shows you how much this region has progressed,” Tyler said. “Chris Cerreta, who was our fourth guy today, he ran about what I did last year and was out of the top 15. That shows you how tough this region is, which is good because you want competition. There are some really good teams here like Sarasota, Wiregrass and Land O’ Lakes.”
Magee (16:15) finished sixth, Tanner Biles (16:31) was 10th, Cerreta (16:51) placed 17th and Zach Lima (16:59) took 20th.
The runner-up honor is the best performance at regionals for the program, which finished fourth the last two years.
“Region has never been our meet,” Tyler said. “Sarasota is a good team. It’s not like it was an upset that we didn’t win, but we really wanted to win. Now we’re going to states with confidence. … There have been teams, like us two years ago, who finish fourth at regionals and step it up a lot at states. We were state runner up two years ago, and we’re going to go all out.”
It will be the last meet for Steinbrenner’s top five, who are all seniors. Except for Biles, who transferred from Freedom last year, the group helped start the program in 2009.
“You don’t want to get too emotional,” Tyler said. “These guys are like my brothers and we want to win for each other. If you think about it being our last race too much you won’t run your race. Plus, we’ve still got track.”
The Class 3A state meet is Nov. 17 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.
PHOTO: Travis Nichols
Land O’ Lakes junior Travis Nichols took third at regionals with a 16:09. He and his teammates are wearing a patch in support of their teammate Steven Barnabei.
//Land O’ Lakes runs for Steven Barnabei
The Land O’ Lakes boys cross country team made states for the seventh time in eight seasons, and did so without No. 5 runner Steven Barnabei.
Barnabei, a junior and team captain, had surgery to remove a brain tumor the week before regionals, which was Nov. 10 at Lecanto High.
“We’re pretty shook up after what happened to Steven,” said junior Travis Nichols. “We’re trying to bounce back from that, not just with people moving up a spot, but mentally too. Hopefully we can do well at states for him.”
Nichols said the team learned of Barnabei’s diagnose Nov. 2, the day of districts. They are wearing a patch with his initials on their jersey.
“We’re running for him the rest of the year,” Nichols said. “He’s doing better now. He’s starting to walk. He’s having trouble gripping things and with slurred speech, but he’s a lot better.”
The Gators took fifth place at regionals by totaling 146 points. Nichols finished third in 16:09 behind Sarasota’s Zackery Summerall (15:54) and Sickles’ Abdin Fator (16:00).
“I’m happy with 16:09,” Nichols said. “My place, I wish I could have competed better with those top two. Wish I was there to try and outkick them at the end.”
Land O’ Lakes junior Tyler Stahl (16:35) and senior Jake Poore (16:37) placed 11th and 12th, respectively.
Nichols also gave credit to freshman Austin Dotson, who ran an 18:27 to finish 70th.
“Austin is really coming on at the end of the year,” Nichols said. “He’s running his best races right now.”
//Tedesco advances to states
Freedom girls cross country runner Annie Tedesco placed 12th at regionals Nov. 10 at McIntosh Middle in Sarasota by completing the 5-kilometer course in 20:47. The performance earned the junior a spot at the Class 4A state meet.
The Patriots girls totaled 181 points to place seventh, one spot and nine points away from advancing to states. Freedom’s boys and the Wharton girls were also unable to get beyond regionals.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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