The Sebring boys cross-country team will be going to a place they haven't been in a very long time - the state finals. The Blue Streaks cruised to a second-place finish in Saturday's Class 3A-Region 2 meet at Lake Nona High School to earn a spot in the state finals on Saturday in Tallahassee.
"It still hasn't really set in that we're going to the state finals," said Sebring boys cross-country coach Jason Bass. "The funny thing is I think the boys have more in them.
"The boys ran good times, were aware of where they were at and we're looking forward to competing in the finals."
This is the first time since the 1990's that Sebring has qualified a team for the state cross-country finals.
"It's a great day for Sebring cross-country," said former Sebring cross-country coach Jeff Shoemaker. "Coach Bass had the boys ready and they did a fantastic job."
Leading the way for the Blue Streaks was junior Eric Foster who finished fifth overall with a personal-best time of 16:22.90, while brother, Damian, came in 15th with a personal-best time of 16:52.90. Sebring freshman Malcolm Holdman set a personal-best of 17:17.00, junior Jose Rivera had a personal-best at 17:79.10 and Wesley Koning finished with a 18:02.50.
"Eric and Damian led the way," said Bass. "The other boys were solid and to have four personal-best times at the regional meet is a true team effort."
Land O' Lakes finished first in the boys meet with a score of 66 points, Sebring was second at 134, Lake Nona had 135, Gainesville High was fourth with 141, Matanzas had 142, Lecanto came in with 154, Ocala Vanguard had 165, Edgewater totaled 171 and Liberty finished with 193.
Sebring, which won the Class 3A-District 8 meet at South Florida State College, had no trouble adjusting to the all-grass course at the regional meet.
"It was a one-mile course that was three loops around which is a little unusual," Bass said. "The boys paced themselves, the weather was good for running and we had an excellent day."
The Blue Streaks are focused on making some noise at the state finals.
"We're going to work hard in practice this week to be ready to run our best on Saturday," Bass said. "The guys are motivated because they see that we're a really good team and we're going to go all out at finals and see what happens."
The Sebring girls team had a solid day at the regional meet with a 13th place finish. Blue Streak junior Ashley Castelli led the way with a time of 23:14.90, freshman Dianna Salinas came in at 23:56.10, Kaytlyn Cooper had a 24:02.40, Katherine Stoll was at 24:50.40 and Ashley White had a 25:03.70.
"I'm so proud of the girls for making it to regionals," said Sebring girls cross-country coach Krista Schult. "They ran their hearts out and as a coach that's all you can ask for."
Ocala Vanguard won the girls meet with a score of 55 points, Seabreeze High placed second at 56, Mitchell had 127, Gainesville totaled 132, Lake Nona had 134, Mainland scored 155 and Sebring finished with 331.
"It was a very tough regional with a lot of quality runners," said Schult. "It was a great experience for us and we have a young team with our top five scorers coming back.
"They're already talking about what they want to accomplish as a team next year and I'm excited about our potential."
Lake Placid senior Dalton Shelton punched his ticket to the state finals with a fourth-place finish at Saturday's Class 2A-Region 3 meet at Anclote High School.
Shelton finished with a time of 17:12.80 over the slow course.
"Dalton ran a real good race," said Lake Placid cross-country coach Scott Morgan. "The course was slow because it wasn't a hard surface. "It was broken wood chips, ground up rubber and it would have been a great course if you were wearing spikes.
"We're excited because this will be Dalton's second trip to the state finals and he's looking forward to competing against the best in the state."
Avon Park sophomore Logan Lashley finished 71st with a time of 20:19.20.
Shelton qualified for the state finals as a sophomore and just missed it last year.
"Dalton has run the state finals course in Tallahassee so he knows what its like," Morgan said. "He's excited about competing and he's looking forward to finishing his high school career on a high note."
Lake Placid sophomore Yadira Cortes finished with a time of 25:35.30 to come in 65th in the girls regional competition.
"This is Yadira's first year of running cross-country and she has improved tremendously," Morgan said. "For her to reach regionals this year is awesome and she is stoked for next year."