TAMPA — Wharton High's girls cross country program is plenty strong with dozens of runners in its ranks, but it's also pretty young with three freshmen and a sophomore in its top five.
The youth movement at the top is partly due to injuries to senior Kallie Gollicher (sprained Achilles tendon) and her junior sister Mollie (plantar fasciitis).
The resiliency of the program, meantime, is partly due to Kallie — who still helps at every practice despite not being able to run — and senior Mariah Henderson, who has taken the younger runners under her wings.
“I can't say enough about how much those seniors have meant to us,” Wharton coach Anthony Triana said. “They have been so dedicated that it has been inspiring for everyone.”
It has also shown up in the results, including Saturday's victory at the Don Bishop Invitational, which Wharton won with 75 points behind top-10 finishes by Henderson and freshman Bryanna Rivers.
Looking ahead, Triana has chosen to run in this weekend's Pre-State meet in Tallahassee so his young team can dip their toes into a big meet.
“I want them to experience the feel of a big meet so they know they can compete and what it takes to rise to the top,” Triana said. “I think this will be great for them.”
Picking and choosing
There are more than 30 Hillsborough County schools that field boys and girls cross country teams — and only a few months to the season.
That translates to coaches making key strategic decisions on training, meet schedules, and, if they decide to run a meet of their own, how many teams to invite and how best to get the meet organized.
This weekend is a classic example of how it works these days. Some schools, such as Plant, Sickles and Wharton, are running this weekend at the Pre-State meet in Tallahassee, while others, such as Robinson, have chosen to stay home and run its own meet, the Millard Shumate Invitational.
“It's a matter of what works best for each school,” said Robinson coach Mark Altimari, who took his team two weeks ago to the FLRunners.com race in Titusville. “For us, we've had some experience with (the state meet course in Tallahassee) so this works for us.”
Plant's girls are using this weekend as a barometer to where they stand against the best in the state. Plant's girls, who have run in 26 consecutive state meets, will be competing in the Elite Division on Saturday at Tallahassee's Apalachee Regional Park, home to the state meet the first week of November.
Hillsborough County's best times
1. James Zentmeyer, Sickles. Jr. 15:58.7 at Flrunners.com Invite
2. Jack Guyton, Plant, Jr. 16:04.4 at North Port XC Invite
3. Jack Rogers, Robinson, Jr. 16:09.8 at Flrunners.com Invite
4. Fredrick Stanford, Robinson, Sr. 16:25.5 at Flrunners.com Invite
5. John Bryant, Bloomingdale. Sr. 16:44.2 at Flrunners.com Invite
6. Vasilis Vasiloudes, Berkeley, Jr. 16:46.56 at UF Mt. Dew Invite
7. Evan Collura, Plant, Jr. 16:47.3 at North Port XC Invite
8. Carlos Andino, Plant, Sr. 16:47.4 at North Port XC Invite
9. Noah Perkins, Seffner Christian. So. 16:47.9 at North Port XC Invite
10. Daniel Dean, Middleton, So. 16:49.6 at Don Bishop Invite
1. Bailey Sullivan, Plant, Sr. 18:51.9 at North Port XC Invite
2. Anna Montgomery, Plant, Sr. 19:01.8 at North Port XC Invite
3. Sneha Sathish, King, So. 19:15.2 at Don Bishop Invite
4. Maggie Parrish, Chamberlain, So. 19:21.6 at Flrunners.com Invite
5. Abigail Grant, Sickles, Jr. 19:21.6 at Flrunners.com Invite
6. Maddy Hull, Robinson, Sr. 19:34.3 at Flrunners.com Invite
7. Erica Oosterhout, Plant, Jr. 19:52.5 at North Port XC Invite
8. Emily Zwijacz, Newsome, Jr. 19:52.9 at North Port XC Invite
9. Julia DeYoung, Robinson, Sr. 20:03.0 at Flrunners.com Invite
10. Lauren Arfaras, Freedom, Sr. 20:06.9 at Flrunners.com Invite