Newsome to set standard in cross country
LITHIA - When it comes to boys and girls cross country on the eastern side of Hillsborough County, Newsome High is once again the program other teams will measure themselves against in 2011. The Wolves' boys return one of the area's top underclassmen, junior Lars Benner, who has a 5,000-meter personal best of 16 minutes, 19 seconds, and another standout junior, Justin Martinez, who made a name for himself in track last spring as part of their state medal winning 4x800-meter relay team. Martinez's 5k personal best is 16:43 but with his speed and training base, watch for that number to drop significantly this fall. Ben Taylor (17:45), a senior, should be the Wolves' No. 3 man from a 2010 squad that finished sixth in the regional meet and 11th at the 4A state finals. Newsome boys coach Brian Sears says his team is "working to fill holes left from last year's team." Part of that equation should be solved by seniors Austin King (18:18) and Brent Mize (18:21).Within the entire county, the Wolves' boys are ranked No. 5, based on their team average for 5k. Plant, which is the No. 5 team overall in the state for Class 4A, is No. 1 in the county followed by Chamberlain, Berkeley Prep and Steinbrenner. Individually, Benner is ranked No. 5 in Hillsborough and Martinez is No. 10. Like the boys, Newsome's girls are also tops in eastern Hillsborough and No. 5 within the county. They're led once again by junior Brianna Jackson, who as a freshman was the county champion but has dealt with various injuries since. Under the guidance of veteran coach Orlando Greene, Jackson fought back from the injuries to post a lifetime best of 19:31 last fall at her district meet, then went 19:37 the following week at regionals. But that's where the season ended for the Wolves because they did not finish among the top eight as a team to earn a berth to the state finals. Returning with Jackson on the varsity as juniors are Stephanie Cajas (5k personal record of 20:25) and Miranda Upton (21:54) and seniors Jordan Lameier (22:18) and Kyla Hoffer (23:35). Greene says two freshmen, Maggie Tulin and Emily Zwijacz (younger sister of former Newsome star Mike Zwijacz) are "promising" and should be part of the varsity scoring mix before season's end. Here's a look of some of the other top cross country runners in the Brandon/South Shore area: Boys Michael Babinec, Riverview, Sr.: the top-ranked individual on this side of the county and No. 3 overall, Babinec has a strong training base and is a fierce competitor on race day. He could even contend for a county title with Chamberlain star Max del Monte and Plant's Travis Christenberry. Brandon Duncan, Armwood, Sr.: the county's No. 4-ranked runner made it to state last fall individually. He's back with a big summer of miles and a new coach, Pete Mirones, a veteran who knows how to guide elite runners. Girls Sabrina Whiting, Seffner Christian, So.: One of the most gifted all-around athletes in the county is back. If she can juggle all the sports she plays, which includes basketball, Whiting could be on the medals podium (top 10) at the 1A state finals. Amber Duncan, Armwood, Sr.: Like her twin brother, Amber made it to state last year as an individual qualifier. She's logged more miles than ever this summer and is fit. If she keeps improving like she has the last few seasons, she should be running 18-minute 5k times soon.
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