Workout Wednesday visit with the HB Plant High School boys cross country team of Tampa as they prepare for their next big race in the North Port Invitational this weekend.
Plant is one of several teams in the mix to be a podium squad this year in a very competitive and deep 4A classification. Their team features a great front runner in an All-State caliber finisher in Albert Tawil-Brown, who can run well into the 15 minute range.
Meanwhile, a pack of runners return behind him who may have been stuck running just over 17 minutes last fall but after several had breakthrough springs and venturing in the 9 minute range for the 3200 are already breaking 17 minutes to start this season including George Dirks and Tyler Rogers, both at 16:33 for their season bests.
The team is also in the midst of coaching change at least at the helm with the head coach title. After suffering but recovering from a stroke in the middle of last track season, long-time head coach Mike Boza decided to hand over the full-time head duties to Bryce Lynn, who had been an assistant under him for the last five years.
Coach Boza certainly is still coaching the team and helping come up with the workouts for the squad, but in a lightened workload for Coach Lynn to pick up.
The workout was repeats at a unique distance of 1,250 meters. Why 1,250 meters? Because if do 4 repeats of them, it adds up to a 5K.
The pace was set for the varsity runners of Plant was at not even what one would call a goal 5K, but a fantasy 5K according to the coaches if all the stars aligned. So for example, top runner Tawil-Brown had to hit 3:45 for his repeats, which adds up to a 15 minute flat 5K while the next pack behind him was at 4 minutes, which adds up to 16 minutes for a 5K.
The repeats were done along a paved bike trail at Gadsen Park in South Tampa near MacDill Air Force Base. The recovery varied, but seemed to be a handful of minutes with Coach Boza getting a heart rate on the runners to monitor how stressed their bodies were after each repeat to see if needed to adjust the time. Also every 400 meters was marked off to help guide the runners on their pacing.
The runners not currently in their varsity top 7 did a different workout in a 4 mile tempo run instead. The practice was last week during a stretch off from racing for all runners while they prepared to race twice this week on Tuesday at the West Hilllsborough Invitational and Saturday at North Port. The varsity runners were given their race plan at the end of practice for the Tuesday race with the strategy to stay controlled for the first two miles before taking off to save their legs for North Port as their opportunity to run fast against great competition.
Plant opened their season with a team victory at the Babe Zaharias Challenge before following up with a third place finish at the Florida Horse Park Invitational behind two defending state champion squads in Belen Jesuit out of 3A and Bolles out of 2A. Neither squad will Plant have to deal with come November in Tallahassee in the 4A state race.
They will get to match up though against another reigning state champion squad in last year’s 1A winners Indian Rocks Christian this Saturday in the elite race at the North Port Invitational, which will be a good opportunity to see who is the best team right now in the Tampa Bay region.