Alyssa Brandt could smile after Saturday's state cross country meet at Little Everglades Ranch.
The Land O' Lakes High sophomore overcame the hilly and chilly course to finish 18th in the Class 3A girls race with a time of 19:25. It was the best finish by a Pasco County girl.
The course did not conquer her despite the fact temperatures were probably in the 40s and the hills can prove devastating to many harriers.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Brandt said. "Cold, but I'm feeling good. My arms were going numb because it was so cold. The hills weren't that bad. We have been preparing for hills. At the end, I was able to pass one or two people going up here. I'm happy. I didn't PR set a personal record, which is what I wanted to do. I came pretty close to it."
"I thought she did pretty good, maybe a little bit too fast in the first mile, but I think that's what everybody was doing," said Land O' Lakes coach Kris Keppel. "She has two more years to do this. The wind was pretty bad on the back side. We had a surprise today. Alea Basulto 108th, 21:38 beat Morgan Keppel, 111th, 21:42 so she ran a PR today. That was a big step. So did Renea Porsh 38th, 20:00. We had two girls make a big jump today, which I am really happy about. Overall, we ran really well."
Land O' Lakes senior Felix Soto earned all-state honors when he finished 10th. Soto had a time of 15:58 and helped his Gators finish in seventh place overall. They had 243 points.
"He ran a PR on this course," Keppel said of Soto. "All season long, I told these guys, five guys under 17:30. We had five guys under 17:24. That's all I expected of them. I am very happy."
Also smiling was Mitchell's Kelli Williams. She actually had a head of steam and finished strong in her race. She was 24th overall in the 4A girls meet. She was the only runner from Pasco County competing in that event.
"I got a PR," Williams said. "It is completely beautiful out here. The hills didn't bother me. I think this is a real cross country course. I think the cold numbs out any soreness."
"Yesterday, we came out and had her run that last straightway," said Mitchell coach Tim Masterson. "The last straightaway was heaven. She did the right workouts and that's why she is where she is today."
Another smiling face belonged to Megan Ibison. The Wiregrass Ranch senior finished 35th in 19:56. She beat Bulls sophomore Ariel Grey, who was 48th in 20:05. The Wiregrass girls finished 13th with 348 points.
"I can't believe it," Ibison said. "The cold made it difficult. It's first time since I have been here that I have been the No. 1 runner. I felt good, but cold."
"I'm always congested, but that's in every race," Grey said. "The cold and the hills were tough. My nose was running the whole time. I may have gotten out too fast. I think it's because of the start that I slowed down a little bit."
"Megan ran really well," said Wiregrass Ranch girls coach Don Howard. "I know Megan went sub 20 minutes and that's what she wanted to do. It was cold out here."
Wiregrass' Ryan Pulsifer finished 34th in 16:33.
"I got a PR and a school record," Pulsifer said. "That's all I could wish for. My team did amazing."
In their first time running at state as a team, the Wiregrass boys were eighth in 2A with 292 points.
"When the season ends, it's always a bittersweet feeling," said Wiregrass coach Chris Loth. "I'm very proud of them. I think they showed everybody how good they can be today. We finished 11th in our region last year. We made a lot of progress."
Wesley Chapel's Jessica Furst finished 60th in 20:16. Furst used to run in the cold in Idaho, but she didn't enjoy the cold Saturday morning.
"Oh no, it's cold," Furst said. "I did OK. It wasn't what I wanted. The cold was tough. Timewise, I did better this year than last year."
Pasco senior Leeann Eble was dressed like she was about to go skiing and wearing a big smile. She finished her high school career 57th in 20:15. She had to miss the district, regional and state last year due to a sprained ankle.
"I'm freezing," Eble said. "It was pretty good all in all."
"I think Leeann ran a good race," said Pasco coach Barry Grayling. "She finished her career off at state. She did a good job to get here. I'm proud of her. He Anthony Plourde did good too. He's only a sophomore."
Sunlake's Kenneth Fessel was 67th in 17:03. Plourde was 86th in 17:15.
"It was cold and I wasn't used to it," Plourde said.