By Kyle LoJacono
Tyler and Zach Lima and Matt Magee have been a part of the Steinbrenner cross country and track programs since the school opened in 2009.
They’ve helped Warriors cross country claim district titles the last three years and a pair of top-five finishes at states.
“It’s been a fast progression, and it’s been really nice because we started it,” said Tyler, Zach’s twin. “To build that tradition and the caliber of the distance program has been one of the things I’m most proud of.”
The trio got an addition last season when Tanner Biles transferred from Freedom, which not only boosted the cross country program, it also created a state contending 4×800-meter relay team in track.
They won district and regional titles and claimed the fourth-year program’s record by completing the relay in 7 minutes, 57 seconds, which was set at the Class 3A state meet.
They runners are all back as seniors this year and have created a set of lofty goals for their final high school season.
“When we got fourth we were saying let’s come back next year and get three spots better on the medal stand,” Zach said. “We love the 4×800 because it lets us compete together. It’s that encouragement because we got fourth in the state.”
Tyler said the feel around the relay is completely different from last year when the four came together for the event.
“Going into last year’s track season we were the chasers,” said Tyler, who also placed seventh in the 3,200 (9:35) last season. “We didn’t have a target on our back, and now everyone is calling coach asking when we’re running our A team in the 4×800. It’s nice to get that credit to know that we’re one of the best teams in the state, but it’s a different kind of pressure because everyone is back. We’re not the underdogs anymore.”
Zach said the performance was a “testament” to a new focus on weightlifting started last track season.
“Our strong belief is strength builds speed, not the other way around,” Zach said. “We still do tempo runs, we still do 10-mile distance runs on Saturdays, and then we hit the weight room every day. We all have weight class with coach (Bob) Ennis, who is also our distance coach. We basically do everything, and we believe that we need to be the strongest team on the track, and that builds our speed.”
Magee said he feels some personal momentum after having what he described as his best cross country season.
“I came in top 11 in the state, so I feel like that was a confidence boost for me,” Magee said. “It made me see that I can stick with pretty much everyone out here, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Biles said the quartet took about two weeks off from running around Thanksgiving, then they’ve been in training for track ever since.
“Right now we’re all at two minutes or less, so we’re a lot faster with a couple weeks before districts” Biles said. “Not a lot of teams have all the guys at two minutes or less, so that’s a good feeling.”
Senior Chris Cerreta is another founding member of Steinbrenner’s distance program. He said part of the Warriors quick success is the bond they’ve formed.
“Our workouts have progressed a lot, and not only that, but the team has become very close because we’ve been together from the beginning,” said Cerreta, who competes in the 3,200. “We’ve been improving as a team and a family. We’re basically together every day.”
Another key was getting Ennis as an assistant during the 2010-11 school year.
“As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, I think he’s been a big part in the progression,” Cerreta said. “Not only does he know all the workouts and what we need to do, but he’s just a great guy to have around. We’re glad to have him.”
Steinbrenner will compete at the Class 3A-District 8 meet at Gaither April 17, followed by regionals at Leto April 24 and states at the University of North Florida May 3.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker