Kristin Conner of Lakewood High was the top Pinellas finisher at Saturday's Kinney Southern Regional Cross Country Championships in Charlotte, N.C. The meet brought together the best high school runners from 12 Southern states and Puerto Rico. Conner, the 1992 Times Runner of the Year, finished 14th in a time of 18:51 for 5 kilometers on a muddy course. Temperatures were in the high 40s. The top eight finishers plus two alternates earned all-expenses-paid trips to San Diego to compete in the national championship on Dec. 12. Liz Lopacki, a junior from Bradenton Manatee High, finished 11th and missed the trip by one place. She won the Class 4A, District 3 title at St. Petersburg's Crescent Lake Park on Nov. 7. Marjorie Schmidt, a junior from Dixie Hollins High, placed 62nd in 20:05. "The cold got to me," she said. Chris Schmidt, her twin brother who was fifth at the state 4A meet, finished 67th in 16:32 after getting boxed in during the early stages of the race. Four Admiral Farragut Academy runners made the trip to Charlotte with assistant coach Mike Nicholson. Chris Malfant ran in the unseeded race for boys in the 11th and 12th grades and finished 27th in 17:02. The senior, a member of the Times All-Pinellas first team, visited Duke University after the race. He already has been accepted at Florida State. Nick Tellnow, another senior who helped the Blue Jackets win the runner-up trophy at the state Class A meet two weeks ago, finished in 17:40. Anthony Rintala, a freshman at Farragut from Fort Walton Beach, was 60th in the grades 9-10 race in 17:37. Chris Wade, another freshman, finished in 20:24. A new dimension to the Kinney regionals - a state team championship - was added to the seeded field races this year. That enabled Conner to win a medal with the Florida girls team, which prevailed with 42 points. She finished fifth on the team. Third was Beth Rooks of Plant High, who was eighth overall and thereby earned a trip to the national championship. At the state 3A meet, Rooks finished second and Conner fourth. Three Hernando High runners made a nine-hour drive to North Carolina to compete in races that took fewer than 20 minutes to complete. But the lengthy Thanksgiving weekend trip was more than worth the effort, said Hernando boys cross country coach Ernie Chatman. "I think they enjoyed it more than they thought they might," said Chatman, who accompanied the threesome. Senior Jody Spangler, junior Eric Omdahl and sophomore Philip Borozny traveled to Charlotte, N.C., for the Kinney Southern Region High School Cross Country Championships. All seven members of Hernando's third-place state Class 3A team had intended to make the trip, Chatman said, but four withdrew for a variety of reasons. More than 1,200 high school runners from 12 Southern states and Puerto Rico competed in one of several races held Saturday. Spangler ran in the elite 5-kilometer race for seeded boys. He finished in 17 minutes, 10 seconds, and placed among the top 110 in a field of about 170 runners. Chatman did not know Spangler's official finishing position. "The course was real narrow," Chatman said, "and everyone was really packed in tight. Jody got caught toward the back of the middle of the pack, and he really couldn't get in a spot where he could run free." Omdahl placed an unofficial 31st among a field of 230 in a 5K race for unseeded runners. He finished in 17:04. "He had a little more room to maneuver," Chatman said, "because he was up in top 30 most of the time." Borozny placed an unofficial 81st among a field of 200 in a 5K race for freshmen and sophomores. He finished in 17:57, about 17 seconds and 15 places behind Lecanto High standout Derek Ellis. Several other high school runners from throughout the Tampa Bay area competed.