Newsome runners are 'in a good place'
LITHIA - The numbers for Newsome High's cross country team are a good place to start appreciating its health. The boys team has 35 runners. The girls team has 25. Then there's the fact only one boy from last year's starting seven graduated, leaving a strong overall core, including three at the top - Lars Benner, Tyler Moriarty and Isaac Baker - with legitimate hopes of reaching the state meet. On the girls side, the one leading the way is sophomore Brianna Jackson, who could be No. 1 in the county before she's finished.Consider Jackson's personal-best numbers, including a 19-minute, 37-second 5K, an 11:56.32 in the 3,200 meters and a 5:35.26 at 1,600 meters. And get this: Jackson did most of that with a sore hip that cut last year's cross country season short and slowed her a bit in track. "It feels way better now," Jackson said. "I still have to be careful, especially on hills, but yes, I'm definitely looking forward to this season." So is coach Orlando Green, who in his fifth year at Newsome is most pleased with the dedication of his runners, almost all of whom run with him year round. Moriarty, a senior, came to the team last year but wishes he had gotten involved sooner. "I had no idea what I was missing," Moriarty said. "I've gotten stronger, faster and I've made a ton of great friends. I think I've made friends that I'm going to have for a long time." For the moment, Moriarty said he and his teammates are focused on making it to the state meet as a team with himself, Benner and Baker hoping to all run under 17 minutes. Couple those three with a surge from Kevin Tragresser, Brent Mize or Joey Perfetto, who ran 17:12 at last year's Hillsborough County championships, and the Wolves look legit. On the girl's side, if Jackson stays healthy she could often add only one point to the Wolves' score, meaning that if some teammates like Caroline Berg, Stephanie Cajas and Sarah Richardson can step up, Newsome's girls could make some noise as well. "We're going to be okay because we had a good summer and I have a great group of kids," Green said. "Newsome cross country is in a good place right now. "A good place."