The Mitchell senior regains his regular-season form, winning the Class 3A, Region 3 meet.
BRADENTON - Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to get back on top.
For Mitchell senior Jeff Masterson, rock bottom was being district runner-up last week. He was rundown, tired of the pressure and tired of racing.
Masterson bounced back in a big way Saturday morning, re-establishing himself as a state contender at the Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Lakewood Ranch.
His winning time was 16 minutes, 24.68 seconds, and in the final strides he held off a challenge from Christopher Delago of Estero.
Masterson won a third straight region crown by 4.4 seconds, and this was his strategy:
"Win," he said. "That was the only real thing on my mind, just to get back into that mode that I've been in before and to get out of a slump. That's what I wanted to do."
The Land O'Lakes and Mitchell boys continued their rivalry, and both teams earned something to brag about. For the Mustangs it is Masterson's title; for the Gators a trip to state, their first since 1999.
Land O'Lakes finished fourth, Mitchell seventh. The Mustangs missed sixth, and a third consecutive trip to state, by 32 points.
"Our strategy was to go out, but not go out too fast, and then pass people in the second and third mile," Gators coach Kris Keppel said. "It was hotter than I thought it was going to be, but our boys ran about what they should have run."
Land O'Lakes was led by Steven Bell, who bested Masterson last week to win his first region title but finished seventh (16:57.08) Saturday.
"It was hot, the course was rough," Bell said. "There was a group of us at the beginning. I kind of took charge after 200 meters until the mile, then Jeff took over and just hammered it the whole way."
Steven Lang was 10th (17:18.30) to help the Gators. The top three Mustangs - Masterson, John Tuccio (11th, 17:19.46) and Jeff Surmin (34th, 18:32.71) - ran as usual. Tuccio went above and beyond a week after he collapsed and was hospitalized for severe dehydration at the district race.
"Our 1-2-3 came out strong," Mitchell coach Jacki Wachtel said. "But 4-7, it just wasn't their day."
Wesley Chapel's Stephanie Amerman also qualified for state - which is Nov. 6 at Tampa's Ed Radice Sports Complex - placing ninth (20:48.84). She was hoping to bounce back too after placing third in the district last week, and she's getting there.
"Well, I'm going to states," she said. "But this is probably one of the worst courses I've ever ran on. The time was probably just as bad as last week but I'll have to get over that and work with what I've got."
Estero's Bona Jones won the girls title (19:13.52) and the Naples girls won the team title by 33 points.