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Largo meets coach's hopes

The Packers finish a solid second at the Class 3A, Region 3 meet and place six runners in the top 31.

Published October 31, 2004

BRADENTON - It wasn't the easiest course. And it sure was hot enough, with temperatures of more than 85 degrees and nary a cloud in the sky.

But it was the race the Largo girls waited all season for.

The Packers were runners-up at Saturday morning's Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Lakewood Ranch. Naples won the championship by 33 points.

Two weeks after finishing a disappointing second in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference, a week after winning a district title against no real competition, this was the race Largo coach Mike Beck wanted to see from his runners.

"We did a great job, we ran real well, I'm proud of them," he said. "I told them to go out and in that first mile and that times weren't important, but places were."

Beck wanted all his girls in the top 30. The Packers put six in the top 31. Kaley Matthews' time of 20 minutes, 54.68 seconds led Largo with a 10th-place finish, and she will lead her team again at the state championships Nov. 6 at Tampa's Ed Radice Sports Complex.

"It was a really hard course today," she said. "There were a lot of dips and it was hot but we really came together as a team to finish. I thought we did really well.

"I was worried about how our team would be because coach kept telling us how slow this course is. I didn't even think I would be able to break 21 minutes, but we came out and did our jobs."

Kristin Fox was 23rd (22:06.84), Sara Bass 25th (22:24.62), Maritza Najarian 26th (22:25.99) and Layla Hall 27th (22:28.24) for Largo, which won its second region runner-up trophy in four years.

Lakewood's Ali Crabb qualified for state for a third consecutive year, running a Pinellas County-best 20:34.40 to place sixth. Like most, she didn't have anything nice to say about the course, either.

"It was an awful course," she said. "It was really hard, it was real cross country, which we really don't have down here.

"It was a tough course but I went out and did my best."

Class 4A: Allen dominates

BRADENTON - Kerry Allen didn't just win, she dominated the girls Class 4A, Region 2 cross country meet at Lakewood Ranch on Saturday.

The St. Petersburg runner ran away from the field, outdistancing Gaither's Amanda Quick by more than 41 seconds to present herself as one of the favorites at the state championship next Saturday at Ed Radice Park in Tampa.

On a muddy track, Allen wasn't slowed in the least.

"I was just happy to break my records from last year," the junior said. "I feel good going to states and I know I can finish at least in the top three."

Allen started neck and neck with Quick for the first mile until Quick, suffering from the effects of strep throat, started to slow. Allen finished without being pushed.

The Seminole boys team crushed the competition for the title with Josh Comer leading the way in sixth place.

"It feels amazing to win this whole thing as a team," Comer said. "We never expected to win like this. It was a surprise, but we're looking forward to states."

Comer's teammates include Aaron Thomas, Eric Cobelens, Christian Homme, and Grant Berkery.

The victory marks Seminole's first regional championship and, with a fifth-place finish, the Seminole girls also qualified for state.

"I'm so elated for the girls," Seminole coach Bruce Calhoun said. "To come out of districts in fourth, then the regionals in fourth is amazing. It was just a great day for Seminole High School."

Sarasota Riverview edged Vero Beach, 92-95 to win the girls team event.

- JEFF BERLINICKE, Times correspondent

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