ORLANDO - With a trip to the state meet hanging in the balance, the entire field in the Class 3A, Region II Meet at Orlando-Lake Nona High took its performance to another level.
Representing Hernando County on Saturday morning was Springstead, led by Amber Philpott.
A week after smashing the county record in the district meet by posting an 18:31.41, the sophomore raced out to an early lead and cruised to a win with a time of 18.53.80
"She's a talent," Springstead girls coach Joel Myers said. "She started out in front and never looked back."
Led by Philpott, the Lady Eagles finished ninth overall, missing a state berth by three places.
"We are young," Myers said. "We are returning a lot of girls, and next year we are going to be dangerous."
Philpott secured her place at states by winning the entire region, but her head coach was hardly surprised.
"She's only a sophomore," Myers said with a laugh. "She will continue to get better, but right now no real strategy, she just goes and runs."
However, things won't be as easy for Philpott in the state meet next Saturday at Tallahassee's Apalachee Regional Park.
"Things will be different in that hills course," Myers said. "Anything can happen, but she won't pull away like she did today, she will have a pace group and everyone runs better with a pace."
Myers also noted that he wouldn't be surprised if she did race out to a lead, and Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said of Philpott, "She's a runner, she runs everywhere - to the bathroom, to practice."
Rounding out the Lady Eagles was the two-time Hernando Today Runner of the Year, junior Tiana Newton, who finished 30th (21:18.30), followed by sophomore Joy Jackson in 56th (22:28.40), senior Alexandrea Zieman in 71st (23:21.20), freshman Toni Pandolfo in 74th (23:39.10), sophomore Julia Diven in 92nd (25:11.10) and junior Amanda Santana in 103rd (27:26.30).
"I'm proud of every single one of them," Myers said. "We are young, and next year there will be a lot of improvement. It starts this summer."
James Amodie, the lone Eagle boy running in the regional, posted an 18:11.20, good for 64th place, on one hip.
"James battled back from injuries all season," Wright said. "He tweaked his hip early on, and spent the second half of the race limping."
Wright had nothing but praise for his senior runner, who has fought through calf and shin injuries all season to qualify.
"I'm as proud as ever," Wright said. "This is the first time a Springstead runner has been to a regional in 13 or 14 years."
Final Class 3A, Region II Girls Cross Country Team Scores:
PL TEAM PTS.
1. Ocala-Vanguard 55
9. Springstead (SPG) 192
SPRINGSTEAD (192) - 1. Philpott 18:53.80, 30. Newton 21:18.30, 56. Jackson 22:28.40, 71. Zieman 23:21.20, Pandolfo 23:39.10, 92. Diven 25:11.10, 103. Santana 27:36.20
Final Class 3A, Region II Boys Cross Country Scores:
SPRINGSTEAD (NTS) - 64. Amodie 8:11.20