Land O’ Lakes: Coach Kris Keppel returns for his 20th year, and also returning is his top runner, Travis Nichols, who was 12th at the Class 3A State meet and won the Sunshine Athletic Conference individual title. The Gators are in Class 3A and are ranked sixth by FLRunners.com and 12th in all classifications. They also have Tyler Stahl and Jake Poore for a deadly one-two-three combination, prompting Keppel to say this is his best team ever.
Wiregrass Ranch: After losing many outstanding runners, Andy Hippley returns as the top athlete based on last year’s times. Coach Chris Loth has been very successful with his runners, but the Bulls’ bump to 4A, and facing Plant, will be a challenge. They’d won four straight district titles, before taking runner-up in 2012.
Mitchell: Has six solid runners, including their top guy, Troy Shea. The Mustangs also bring the hard-working Koehler Machlus, solid Cory Hansen and newcomer Matt Fair. Ty Wetherhill and Jacob Schmit also look solid.
Anclote: Has had bright moments in the past, but the Sharks may develop some young talent this season. Watch the times of promising sophomore Steve Katsiopis, who has shown he could be one of the county’s top runners.
Runners to watch
Travis Nichols, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Finished 12th at states in 2012 en route to being named the Pasco Tribune Runner of the Year.
Tyler Stahl, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Finished 17th at states last year, meaning he and Nichols will contend for the county’s top runner.
Troy Shea, Sr., Mitchell: Hard-working, solid runner who should lead the Mustangs squad.
Jake Poore, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: A veteran runner who has posted a 16:51 time.
Steven Barnabei, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Returning from brain surgery to make him cancer-free, this co-captain is a source of inspiration for the Gators.
Andy Hippely, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Was 10th in the conference in 2012.
James Raymond, So., Gulf: Will be the Buccaneers No. 1 runner.
Girls Teams to Watch
Wiregrass Ranch: Coach Don Howard has taken his team to state six years in a row and, despite the loss of Nikita Shah, will not fall apart. Howard was Pasco Tribune’s Coach of the Year and keeps bringing in new runners who will have to step up to help the Bulls stay competitive in the new Class 4A-District 6. Leading the way should be Elise Cedre and Madison Conway, but Wiregrass will see little competition in Pasco County other than at Sunshine Athletic Conference meet.
Gulf: Coach Dean Lofton always finds a way to bring talent to the team. Eliza Gazda looks promising, while rounding out some of the top runners should be Katie Buckman and Kari Grippo who will make the Buccaneers competitive, like always.
Mitchell: The Mustangs have some solid runners in Emily Kerns and several athletes. With newcomers Leah Thompson, Melinda Macklen, Jessie Boykin, Katlyn Dunkley and returning Jordan Spicer, the team has six solid girls. Mitchell could be the top team in Pasco County.
Land O’ Lakes: Always a talented and deep squad, the Gators boast two promising fresh faces: Izzy Brown, a freshman, and Ester Abramova, a sophomore. Like every season, the Gators should bring contenders to each race.
Runners to watch
Emily Kerns, Jr., Mitchell: Arguably the best girls runner in Pasco County.
Elise Cedre, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Was 52nd at state and should lead this year’s team.
Madison Conway, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Was 78th at state last year as a freshman
Addie Cornwell, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: An always improving runner that’s not far behind Conway and Cedre.
Eliza Gazda, Sr., Gulf: Looks to be the top runner for the Buccaneers.
Savannah Goode, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Ran a 21:14 at districts.
Jordan Spicer, Sr., Mitchell: A veteran runner who keeps keeps improving for the Mustangs.
Elizabeth Salazar, Sr., Wesley Chapel: One of the more solid runners for the Wildcats
Kari Grippo, Sr., Gulf: Was second at the regions and 34th at the Class 2A state meet (20:09).