LAKELAND – Anthony Pollizzi picked the right time to have his best race as the junior runner raced to a seventh place finish at the 2015 Sunshine State Conference Championship held Saturday here at Holloway Park and Nature Preserve.
Pollizzi, who had not had a top ten finish this season, finished seventh with a time of 25:59.0 over the hilly and sandy, 8,000 meter course. This is the first time the Fort Myers native has been the top Moccasin runner. His previous best finish had been third on the Florida Southern team at the Moccasin Invitational at the same Holloway Park course on Sept. 25 where he placed 13th overall with a 27:52.9 time.
"I'm happy (with the finish)," said Pollizzi, "I've been working hard in practice, running 100 miles a week the last five weeks. The first three miles, I was like, this is awesome."
Pollizzi led the pack from around the one mile to the three mile marker.
"I like to front-run, even in practice," said Pollizzi. "Leading's a huge thrill, but, unfortunately, around the 5K mark, the Saint Leo guys just pulled away for me. At that point, I didn't want to let my teammates down, and even it was a long-shot, I wanted to try and win."
His top-ten finish earned Pollizzi a spot on the SSC All-Championship team.
Pollizzi's time of 25:59.0 at the SSC meet was almost a full minute faster than his personal best time of 26:58.2 posted two weeks ago at the Florida State Invitational. This is Pollizzi's first year running cross country after running track at Duke University.
Freshman Dean McGregor was the second Moccasin across the finish line with a 16th place time of 26:16.1 while senior Jose Perez came in with a time of 26:22.9 to finish in 18th place. Junior Cody Van Natter placed 22nd for Florida Southern with a 26:46.7 time (a personal best 8K time) with senior Zach Hall close behind with a 26:49.0 time for 24th place. Rounding out the Moccasin finishers were senior Kyle Butler, who posted a 27:00.1 time to finish in 28th place; sophomore John Bryant, who recorded a time of 27:32.10 to finish 36th; freshman Everett Wagner, who placed 38th with a personal best time of 27:42.8; and sophomore Christian Beauchemin, who was 44th with a 29:05.4 time.
Saint Leo won the men's race for a second straight year, topping the six other schools with a team score of 28 with Nova Southeastern taking second with 38 points. The Moccasins were next with 87 points followed by Tampa (99 points); Florida Tech (120); and Rollins (190).
Saint Leo also took individual honors as Valentin Lenz took first place with a 25.27.2 time. Lenz had finished as SSC runner-up the past two seasons. Two of his teammates followed as Rafal Matuszczak came in second at 25:39.3 and Niclas Bez, last year's champion, placing third with a 25:46.1 time.