Houston man takes top spot
By Jeff Odom
Tyler Stahl’s red, white and blue running shorts weren’t the only thing standing out from the pack of runners at the 28th annual Lutz Independence Day 5K — his final place in the standings did too.
Though Stahl finished in second place overall behind race winner Daniel Gollins of Texas, who won with a final time of 16 minutes, 8 seconds, the Land O’ Lakes High boys cross country and track and field standout took home the top spot in the ages 15 to 19 category, one of the most competitive groups in the event, at 16:22.
“I went out a little too slow (at the start), but I’m glad I caught the guy in second place,” said Stahl, who finished fourth overall in last year’s race.
Temperatures for the 8 a.m. start were cooler than last year, because of a storm system that brought heavy rains to the Tampa Bay area. Still, the increased humidity played a major role for some competitors, but not for the 17-year-old Stahl, who said he has gotten used to it over the years.
“I just wanted to get him; that’s what I was thinking about,” Stahl said. “The heat and humidity was a little bit of a factor, but I’m used to it now, because I’ve been running in Florida for four years now, running cross country. So, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, because I’m sure all the rain we’ve had cooled the air temperature a little bit, so that wasn’t as bad. But I was fine with it.”
On top of the podium finish, second place was even sweeter for the senior-to-be, because he beat out all members from Steinbrenner’s infamous “Boss Cross”, one of Land O’ Lakes’ biggest rivals in both track and cross country during the high school season.
The Warriors defeated Stahl and the Gators for the Class 3A region track team title back in April.
“It’s nice, because it gives us like an early season confidence boost for our whole team,” Stahl said. “Now that we know that all of their seniors pretty much graduated, we pretty much know we can beat them this season and it still feels good.”
Other top finishers in the race included Tampa’s Larry Smart, who was third overall and No. 1 in the Master’s Category (16:25); Land O’ Lakes’ Tommy Brown, who was fourth overall and took the top spot in the 35-39 category (16:57); and Chris Cerreta of Lutz who placed fifth at 17:29.
Jacki Wachtel of New Port Richey was the top female finisher in this year’s race with a final time of 17:47. She placed ninth overall.
— Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter @JOdomLaker