The Lakewood Ranch girls' streak of seven straight cross country state meet appearances came to an end Friday, but the Saint Stephen's boys made sure Manatee County would have at least one team at next week's event.
Battling injuries and a lack of depth and missing one of their top runners, the Lakewood Ranch girls placed 10th at the Class 4A-Region 2 meet Friday at Holloway Park in Lakeland.
The Sarasota High girls finished first. The top six teams and top 15 individuals qualified for next Saturday's state meet in Tallahassee.
"I knew going in it was going to be hard," said Kristina Bratton, who had taken the girls to state in each of her four years as head coach.
"We just didn't have the depth this year, but lose only one senior and we should be OK. We have a lot of girls coming back and some that were injured," Bratton said. "It was a tough course, winding and hilly. The season was an experience. Not having a lot of depth put a lot of pressure on the girls."
Manatee High's Raquel Lespasio placed 31st overall to finish first among the Manatee County girls with a time of 21:13.53 for the 3.1 mile race.
Sarah Fazio placed 33rd overall (21:22.61) to lead the Lakewood Ranch girls. She was followed by Kaily Scully (51st), Andrea McDonald (53rd), Emma Fazio (65th) and Kim Arnold (89th).
The Lakewood Ranch boys, who had gone to three consecutive state meets, finished eighth overall with a score of 155. North Port grabbed the last qualifying spot at sixth (143) and Sarasota easily won the boys race (55) with Steinbrenner second (115).
The top boys runner for Lakewood Ranch was Brice Easton, who placed 17th with a time of 17:26.55. John Rivera, who had been battling injuries, was 24th overall (17:40.24). The other three scorers for Lakewood Ranch were Jon Reid (36th), Matt Srolis (42) and Andrew Dean (74th). Manatee High's Marcel Sanchez was 49th.
In 1A-Region 2, the Saint Stephen's boys placed fifth with 163 points. The Falcons were led by Henry Howell (12th place, 17:54.87) and Chris Hanson (19th, 18:27.32). Their other scorers were Angus Chatham (29th), Dawson Hamilton (45th) and Andrew Csubak (52).
"Our guys had a game plan and we executed it perfectly though not everyone of our runners had their best day," Saint Stephens boys coach J.P. Wolcott said. "Because we have a deep team this year we were able to rise above that and we are very proud of what our guys accomplished. We are big believers in starting relatively steady and finishing strong and that's what we did."
Tyler Ross of Cardinal Mooney placed 15th overall with a time of 18:01.02 to get the last qualifying spot for the state meet. The Cougars finished seventh in the team standings.
The Saint Stephen's girls placed 10th overall. The two top local runners in the girls division were the Falcons' Shreya Patel (40th) and Out-Of-Door-Academy's Terra Ehrhart(41st).
In the 3A-Region 3 the top local runner for the girls was Palmetto High's Luz Olguin (56th) and Matt Connor (71st) led the Palmetto boys.