By Tamas Mondovics

Runners, coaches and parents couldn’t have asked for better weather for this year’s 4A District 7 high school cross country championship last month hosted at Newsome High School in Lithia.

The 5K race welcomed boys and girls teams from Bloomingdale, Durant, East Bay, Newsome, Plant City, Riverview, and Strawberry Crest.

Newsome walked away with the team title followed by Bloomingdale and Riverview.

While more than 80 individual student-athletes competed, many of whom for the first time, the race sported a couple of top names that clearly stood out from the rest.

Leading the roster once again this year on the girl’s side as one of the best runners in the state is Riverview’s sophomore Baile Hertenstein, who, as predicted, finished first place with a solid 18:33.17.

“I felt good today and I am much more confident,” said Hertenstein, who won last year’s district and regional meets, but finished 15th at state. “I am going to walk away with a medal at state this year.”

Coming in second place leading the host team was Newsome’s sophomore, Maria Somrah, followed by her younger sister Juliana in third place.

“This was not my best but felt pretty strong,” Maria said but added that with districts behind her she is looking ahead to regionals a week later, with little doubt about what needed to be done when she said, “I am physically ready, but I must be there mentally more than anything else.”

Newsome Cross Country Head Coach Orlando Green was pleased with Maria’s performance as well as his entire team’s efforts this year, so far.

“The program is going great and Maria is ready for the next meet,” Green said.

On the boy’s side, Newsome once again came out on top, followed by Bloomingdale and Plant City. While as a team, Durant fell short of placing in the top three, individually the program boasts of one of the best runners in the state; Haftom Fliegelman, who has finished with 16:45.07, and a 45 second lead ahead of Newsome’s junior Cody Caskey.

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