BRADENTON -- The Lakewood Ranch boys and girls cross country teams advanced to next week's region cross country meet by finishing among the top four teams at the Class 4A-District 8 meet on Saturday at G.T. Bray park.
The Lakewood Ranch boys placed third, and the girls finished fourth to grab the last qualifying spot. Manatee failed to qualify as a team but advanced two runners who finished among the top 15 individuals.
"We are very pleased with that, although we had a devastating blow this week when we lost Kyle Wray for the season because of an injury," Lakewood Ranch boys coach Bryan Thomas said. "He has been struggling with leg injuries, and the doctors said no. It's hard to lose your MVP from last year, and really our number one or two runner is gone when we need him the most."
As expected, Sarasota dominated the boys race, finishing first with 24 points. North Port was second (72) followed by Lakewood Ranch (94) and St. Petersburg High.
Brice Easton led Lakewood Ranch and finished first among Manatee County runners by placing 13th overall with a time of 17:24.25 in the 3.1 mile race.
The other Lakewood Ranch scorers were Jon Reid (17th, 17:34.53), Mattias Srolis (19th, 17:41.680, John Rivera (20th, 17:42.99) and Skylar Mars (25th, 18:10.52).
"Now we are behind the eight ball so to speak," Thomas said. "John Rivera is coming off an injury as well, and he is our number one runner and finished fourth on our team today. All our guys stepped up to get to region, and we are going to have to really step up next week to make it to state (top six region teams advance to state)"
Manatee High's Marcel Sanchez qualified for region as an individual by placing 15th overall with a time of 17:31.24. Manatee sophomore Raquel Lespasio also advanced to region competition by finishing 13th overall (20:49.83).
"I am very happy. It's always great when you have some kids go to region," Manatee head coach Rae Ann Darling Reed said. "We were sixth in both boys and girls, which is where I thought we would be. We were missing a couple of girls unfortunately. Raquel had a PR (personal record), which was awesome and is making her first trip to region."
Lakewood Ranch finished with 96 points to beat out fifth place Palm Harbor University (112). Sarasota won the girls race (30 points) followed by Sarasota Riverview (46) and North Port (86).
Sarah Fazio led the Lakewood Ranch girls with a 10th place finish (20:46.15) that was tops among Manatee County runners.
The other scorers for the Lakewood Ranch girls were Katrina Trompke (12th, 20:47.34), Andrea McDonald (20th, 21:15.03), Kailyn Scully (26th, 21:37.97) and Emma Fazio (28th, 21:41.43). Trompke won the Manatee County portion of the Tri County meet last week.
"It was kind of scary for awhile. They didn't calculate Sarah at first, and we were fifth for awhile until they noticed it and that bumped us up to fourth," Lakewood Ranch girls coach Kristina Bratton said. "I am very happy, because going through districts is hard. At regions, we have to make sure we are on our Ps and Qs."
The Class 4A-Region 2 meet is scheduled for Saturday morning at Holloway Park in Lakeland.