Land O’ Lakes boys take gold
By Jeff Odom
It was a day of firsts for the Wiregrass Ranch girls cross country team, as it dominated the inaugural Run with the Bulls Invitational Oct. 13.
Competing without senior Nikita Shah, who was on a recruiting trip, Wiregrass Ranch totaled 41 points to beat out Monteverde Academy by 24 to finish first in the eight-team race.
The event was even more special for Bulls junior Elise Cedre. She finished the 5-kilometer race in 19 minutes 49.72 seconds, edging out teammate Berlin Waters (19:57.44) to claim her first career individual title in front of the home crowd.
To top off the day, Cedre was celebrating her 17th birthday.
Cedre couldn’t hold back the tears as she was presented with a first-place medal and the team trophy. She said Bulls coach Don Howard never stopped believing in her.
“It’s been pretty great,” Cedre said. “I’ve never finished first in a race before. Coach said before the race, ‘Hey you might get first in this race,’ and I did and I owe it all to God. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Cedre said it is a big accomplishment for the squad to be able win without its best runner.
“Nikita is always far ahead,” Cedre said. “She always wins, but yeah she’s good by herself, and when she’s not here we can all pull up the team, and I think all our girls we always run together. We’re always together, always working hard and it’s just a really big team effort today.”
Other top times by Wiregrass Ranch were turned in by seventh-place finisher Addie Cornwell (20:24.84) and Chelsea Ginn-Davis (21:13.80), who placed 15th. Fellow Bulls runners Emily Payne (21:22.98) and Savannah Goode (21:31.87) took 16th and 19th, respectively.
Katie Monds (21:25.35) was the best finisher for Land O’ Lakes, coming in 17th, while Gators freshman Lindsey Weilant (22:23.3) was 27th.
Academy at the Lakes’ lone representative Alex Gittens (23:39.51) crossed the line 36th overall.
On the boys side, it was Land O’ Lakes that took the crown, placing in three of the first four spots to win the team title. The Gators finished with 30 points, defeating runner-up Nature Coast by 12.
Junior Travis Nichols led all runners to the finish line with a time of 16:13 for his first title of the year. Teammates Tyler Stahl (16:34) and Jake Poore (16:39) took second and fourth, respectively.
Land O’ Lakes had its top-10 runners complete the course in less than 18:30. Gators coach Kris Keppel noted that as a program first.
“Now that we have so many people fighting for that seventh and last spot on varsity really helps with the competition in the postseason,” Nichols said. “I think it’s only going to make us faster.”
Keppel also pointed out that his squad’s average finish of 16:49.4 is just two tenths of a second slower than when Land O’ Lakes took seventh at the Class 3A state meet in 2008.
Wiregrass Ranch finished fifth with 131 points. Senior Ermais Bireda (18:10), who is recovering from a shin injury, took 20th, while teammate Jarred Lanier (18:11) was 21st.
—Sports Editor Kyle LoJacono contributed to this report