BRADENTON -- The Manatee High boys used a pair of fresh young legs to turn in a veteran-like performance Saturday in the Bradenton Runners Club XC Invitational at G.T. Bray park.
Newcomers Chris McAleer and Marcel Sanchez helped propel the Hurricanes to a third-place finish, which was best among Manatee County schools in both the boys and girls divisions.
McAleer placed 11th in a time of 18 minutes and 25.11 seconds, while Sanchez clocked in at 18:39.62 for 13th place.
Henry Howell from Saint Stephen's placed eighth overall with a time of 17:50.71 for the best finish among Manatee County boys individuals.
McAleer, a sophomore, transferred to Manatee from New Jersey to begin this school year. Sanchez is a freshman trying to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Josh, a former Canes standout.
"The humidity here is different, and the first couple of times I ran it took awhile to adjust to the humidity, but for the most part the temperature is pretty much the same," McAleer said. "The course was good. I was a little bit disappointed with my time. I might not have been
prepared as much as I could have. I've been running, but I've been injured a lot. Last year, I couldn't run because I had a stress fracture and the year before I had a torn hamstring."
Josh Sanchez said the course record at G.T. Bray park for the Canes Classic (15:49.3), which has given Marcel one of many goals.
"I am trying to follow in his footsteps right now, but one day I will get faster than him," Marcel said. "I had two other brothers run, and I am the youngest of the four. I was kind of disappointed with my time. I didn't really feel good at the beginning."
The Canes' other scorers finished in 18th, 20th and 27th place to amass 85 points. Perennial power Seminole Osceola easily won the race (52 points), placing all its scorers in the top 16 and two in the top five. Riverview finished second (56) and had the second- and third-place finishers. Tyler Fisher of Port Charlotte won the race (16:12.08), but the Pirates did not field a full team.
"We have a strong, young team. Our top seven is mostly freshmen and sophomores," Manatee head coach Charlie Kennedy said. "I figured we would come behind Riverview, and Osceola is always strong. I think we are going to be one of the top two teams in the county."
Manatee High girls coach Rae Anne Darling Reed decided not to field a team and entered only three in the varsity race.
"They need to earn their spots on varsity. I put the rest on JV so they could compete against each other. This race is really helping me decide who our top seven will be," she said. "I talked the girls before the race about it, and they were on board."
The three girls who ran varsity for Manatee did well. The Hurricanes had the top girls' finisher among county girls in junior Sydney Britt, who placed seventh with a time of 22:24.87. Alison Ecker, a sophomore, placed 10th (22:35.27), and senior Alexandra Servia was 19th (22:55.21)
"I felt pretty good. It's exciting to place in the top 10," Britt said. "I started off pretty good and kind of faded at the two-mile and tried to push hard at the end. Towards the end the course is pretty fast."
Riverview and Osceola took the top two spots in the girls team standings, too, with the Rams taking first place. Riverview's Robyn Natherson won the race in 20:08.55.
Braden River placed fourth for the highest finish among the Manatee County girls' teams. The Pirates were led by Sofie Leto, who was 11th (22:42.21).