SAINT LEO — One of Pasco County’s most dominating high school cross country programs is also providing a major boost to Saint Leo University.
The Lions men’s squad has three Wiregrass Ranch High products: Matthew Basin and brothers David and Patrick Hill. David, a sophomore, was the first to commit to Saint Leo.
“I didn’t really know much about the place other than I’d see it when we ran the hills up here,” David said. “It was the state meet of my senior year when I decided to come here, and then I worked on getting Matt to come here too.”
Basin said he was originally looking for a school further from home, but found that the right location for him was also the closest.
Patrick, a freshman, followed suit, and the trio are working to duplicate some of their high school success, such as helping the Bulls claim top-10 finishes at states during their four years at Wiregrass Ranch
“We want to make this place into one that’s known for running,” said Basin, a sophomore. “We did that at Wiregrass, and the coming years we’ve got a lot of potential with the guys we have and the guys we’ll be bringing in.”
The former Bulls also have a cross-town high school rival as a teammate in Wesley Chapel graduate Steven Brown.
“My school wasn’t really top-notch at cross country and they were, so we really looked up to them,” Brown, a sophomore, said. “Being here running with them, it’s kind of an honor. We were rivals in high school, but we’re basically best friends now. … They do give it to me a little bit about how they’d beat us in high school, and it kind of helps push me a little bit in practice I’ll say that.”
David said all former rivalries are in the past, and that the Lions will be a force this season in the Sunshine State Conference after placing fifth in the league’s meet last year.
“I’m really excited about the talent we have,” David said. “I really expect us to win conference this year.”
The Lions’ first race is Friday at the South Florida Invitational.
Correspondent Kyle LoJacono can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Kyle_LoJacono.