The seed sheets are in for next week's flrunners.com Invitational IV meet at Ed Radice Park and Hillsborough County teams would seem to figure prominently in the final outcome.
In the girls Race of Champions, which features 26 of the state's top teams, Plant, King and Wharton will field squads and Gaither's Amanda Quick will compete as an individual.
The race will once again pit Quick, who has the third fastest 5-kilometer time in the state this season (18 minutes, 31 seconds), against King's Laura Bowerman, who holds the fastest time at 17:42. Pacing both of those runners will be Oviedo's Jenny Barringer, widely considered to be the best runner in the state. Her best time this season is 17:54.
In the boys Race of Champions, Jesuit, Plant, Bloomingdale and Wharton will participate in the 27-team field, allowing the Tigers' Andy Biladeau to go head-to-head with Mitchell's Jeff Masterson in a rematch of the USF/Jesuit Invitational on Sept.13. In that race Biladeau and Masterson ran their fastest times of the season with the Jesuit junior winning by almost 12 seconds.
The flrunners.com meet will take place on the same Ed Radice course to be used for the state cross-country finals Nov.8. The meet, which in past years had been run in Winter Haven, will replace the Pre-State meet, which was not scheduled to be run this year.
It will be the first and only chance for most of the runners to experience the state championship course before the morning of the final race.
All told, there will be 235 teams participating in eight separate races, although included in that number are several schools bringing "A" and "B" teams.
BILADEAU'S BACK: Biladeau seems to have recovered successfully from last year's bout with anemia.
The Jesuit junior, who finished third in last year's state meet and was the highest finishing underclassman in Class 2A, is 2-for-2 this season and has recorded the fastest times in the state each time out.
Biladeau won the West Hillsborough Invitational in 15:26 against a field that has been described as weak in relation to elite statewide competition. But he followed that with a win at the USF/Jesuit Invitational in 15:15, bettering last year's state meet time by 38 seconds.
NEW PAIGE FOR EAST BAY: When Lindsey Moffenbier left East Bay in 2001, the Indians' cross-country program slipped back into mediocrity, finishing 11th in their 12-team district in 2002.
That after being able to cheer on Moffenbier as she ran to top-five finishes each of her four years at the school.
Times might be changing for the better for East Bay thanks to a new youngster, sophomore Paige Williams.
Williams seems to be picking up right where Moffenbier left off, running to a second-place finish at the Don Bishop Invitational (to Bowerman) and finishing seventh in the USF/Jesuit Invitational.
The surge is somewhat surprising since Williams didn't run cross country last year. She played soccer and joined the track team in the spring.