The script truly got flipped.
Entering the Hernando County Championship Meet at Springstead on Friday – two days after the originally scheduled date thanks to rain – the host Eagles were supposed to give the Nature Coast boys a run for their money.
Meanwhile, the Lady Sharks were expected to run away from the field as they had all season.
Instead it was the male members of the Nature Coast contingent winning in close but comfortable fashion, pulling away to claim the Sharks’ sixth straight county crown.
Conversely, Nature Coast’s girls literally couldn’t quite catch up to the Lady Eagles down the stretch, as Springstead claimed its second county title in three years, by three points, 125-122.
The caveat: the Lady Sharks sat their best distance runners in what Nature Coast girls coach Ed LaRose would only call a coach’s decision. He estimated that his team lost 60 points in the process.
So the Lady Sharks, unbeaten in six previous meets this season, tasted defeated for the first time in 2013.
“Springstead is a great team and came out and gave 100 percent as they always do,” LaRose said. “Coach (Joel) Myers is a fantastic coach.
“We kicked, scratched and clawed for every point possible. I don’t want to harp on the fact we lost. I’m proud of the girls today. Springstead did a great job and I don’t want to take anything away from them.”
That Nature Coast nearly survived its personnel hits was impressive, considering the Lady Eagles boasted the winner in 11 of the 17 events.
“We got our firsts, and we got just enough,” said Myers, Springstead’s girls coach. “We were trying to get enough points and the kids came through.
“It was fun. We love competing against those guys. Nature Coast is a class act over there and we have a ball competing against them.”
Though he was certainly happy to accept the triumph, the team’s third county title in his seven years at the helm, he lamented the circumstances.
“I admire those guys a lot for doing that,” Myers said of the Nature Coast coaches. “It cost them a county championship. I credit them for sticking by their guns.
“Everybody likes to win, but it’s really good for the kids. We’re young, younger than young, and it’s a good experience.”
Junior Wilena Little went 4-for-4 in her events at this meet last year and didn’t disappoint this time around, even as she admittedly fights through a leg injury.
She started off by taking the long jump (16-4 1/2) and 100 (12.47). She then added firsts in the 400 (58.29) and 200 (25.49).
In her three races, she set new season-best marks. She also upped her personal county championship count to 10 in three years, repeating in the long jump and 400 while three-peating in the 100 and 200.
“It means a lot,” Little said. “Compared to how I feel right now, I’m really satisfied with my times.”
“Her times were excellent,” Myers said. “I expected her to win all four, but she dominated all four. It’s nice to see her starting to peak at the right time.”
Myers gambled on pulling Little from the 4x400, and the Lady Eagles held a one-point advantage heading into that final race.
Nevertheless, the quartet of Erin Blackwell, Ty’Rhonza Harris, Alexandra Ede and Sandra Alexis held off Nature Coast to take first in 4:28.11.
The Lady Eagles had two more repeat county champs, junior Angela Morton in the pole vault (7-6) and the sophomore Blackwell in the 800 (2:28.88).
Freshman Amber Philpott chipped in a first in the 1,600 (5:47.39) and 3,200 (12:30.23), and joined Blackwell, Harris and Kayla Brittain on a 4x800 that crossed the finish line ahead of the field in 10:39.32.
The junior Harris had the winning leap in the triple jump (32-2 1/2), as well.
Bronte Cameron, a Lady Shark sophomore, made it consecutive county crowns in the 100 hurdles (16.73) and 300 hurdles (50.60).
Nature Coast’s Alicia Gentz, Ashley Gentz, Briana Baugher and Ashley Chevalier combined for 50.82 to take the 4x100.
Hernando senior Ebone Plummer repeated in the shot put with a 35-3/4 toss. Another Lady Leopard, sophomore Lauren Plaugher, won the discus (95-8).
Central’s girls got their lone county championship from Aysha McCants, in the high jump (4-8).
The Lady Bears were third overall with 53, in front of Hernando (45) and Weeki Wachee (nine).
Victory was essentially clinched in the 3,200. Senior Cody Van Natter and freshman Austin Mulyck finished 1-2, with a 10:28.47 and 10:30.94 respectively.
Another senior, Stephen Murphy, came in fourth (10:54.99) to give the Sharks 16 points in that race alone.
Kevin Ciccone pulled out a first in the 1,600 (4:43.56), Wyatt Hessler added one in the 400 (52.34) and Frank Villaizan dashed to a winning 22.58 in the 200.
Matt Breida, Villaizan, Jacquez Kincade and Deshawn Smith teamed for a first-place clocking of 43.26 in the 4x100.
“We expected a battle with Springstead. They’ve come a long way with that program,” Nature Coast boys coach Ryan Wilson said. “So it was exciting to come out and win it.
“It was an overall effort today; every aspect of the track. The field events came through. The distance did what they had to do, and the sprinters were excellent.”
Unlike the girls, the boys maintained their unbeaten record and will attempt to collect a fourth district championship in six seasons on Thursday at Tavares.
“This really prepares us for the rest of the season,” Wilson said. “I don’t think anything will be given to us. We’ll have to earn it.
“I think having this be close prepares the kids mentally if we have another close meet.”
For Springstead, James Amodie, Jai Jackson, Zack Romblad and Ricky Toth took the 4x800, posting a 9:07.35 time.
Bharat Malhotra, Toth, Bernard Ndedi, Romblad capped the meet with a 3:34.47 to win the 4x400.
Abraham Paudling came out on top in the long jump thanks to a 20-5 1/2, and followed with a first in the triple jump (42-1/2).
“I felt pretty good coming in,” said Paulding, who was hampered by a hamstring injury this time last season. “I’m glad I actually won. Anything can go wrong with triple and long.
“Last year was disappointing because I felt I could have went far. It felt really good to win in county this year.”
Junior Bobby Harris easily claimed his second straight high jump title with a 6-6 leap. That would have tied the school record coming into the season if he hadn’t already broken it with a 6-9 earlier this year.
Also for the Eagles, Ethan Kemp snagged first in the shot put (47-3), Toth won the 800 (2:00.76) and Dylan Pendlebury’s 12-0 in the pole vault placed him first in that event.
The defending three-time pole vault champion, Weeki Wachee senior Steven James, will not be competing the rest of the season, Hornet coach Jon Malandrucco said.
Malandrucco declined to disclose the reasons, though he said they are not injury-related. James became the school’s first state qualifier in any sport in 2012.
Senior Quadavis Battle gave Central victories in the 110 hurdles (15.43) and the 300 hurdles (40.97).
Connor Foradas, a Hernando junior, made it two years in row winning the discus behind a 118-7 throw, as did senior teammate Tyrail Hawkins in the 100 (10.95).
2013 Hernando County Championship Meet
1. Nature Coast (NCT) 122, 2. Springstead (SPG) 104, 3. Central (CEN) 64, 4. Hernando (HER) 46, 5. Weeki Wachee (WW) 14
4x800 – 1. Amodie, Jackson, Romblad, Toth (SPG) 9:07.35
LJ – 1. Paulding (SPG) 20-5 1/2
HJ – 1. Harris (SPG) 6-6
TJ – 1. Paudling (SPG) 42-1/2
SP – 1. Kemp (SPG) 47-3
DIS – 1. Foradas (HER) 118-7
PV – 1. Pendlebury (SPG) 12-0
1600 – 1. Ciccone (NCT) 4:43.56
110 hurdles – 1. Battle (CEN) 15.43
100 – 1. Hawkins (HER) 10.95
4x100 – 1. Breida, Villaizan, Kincade, Smith (NCT) 43.26
400 – 1. Hessler (NCT) 52.34
300 hurdles – 1. Battle (CEN) 40.97
800 – 1. Toth (SPG) 2:00.76
200 – 1. Villaizan (NCT) 22.58
3200 – 1. Van Natter (NCT) 10:28.47
4x400 – 1. Malhotra, Toth, Ndedi, Romblad (SPG) 3:34.47
1. Springstead (SPG) 125, 2. Nature Coast (NCT) 122, 3. Central (CEN) 53, 4. Hernando (HER) 45, 5. Weeki Wachee (WW) 9
4x800 – 1. Philpott, Blackwell, T. Harris, Brittain (SPG) 10:39.32
LJ – 1. Little (SPG) 16-4 1/2
HJ – 1. McCants (CEN) 4-8
TJ – 1. T. Harris (SPG) 32-2 1/2
SP – 1. Plummer (HER) 35-3/4
DIS – 1. Plaugher (HER) 95-8
PV – 1. Morton (SPG) 7-6
1600 – 1. Philpott (SPG) 5:47.39
100 hurdles – 1. Cameron (NCT) 16.73
100 – 1. Little (SPG) 12.47
4x100 – 1. Al. Gentz, As. Gentz, Baugher, Chevalier (NCT) 50.82
300 hurdles – 1. Cameron (NCT) 50.60
400 – 1. Little (SPG) 58.29
800 – 1. Blackwell (SPG) 2:28.88
200 – 1. Little (SPG) 25.49
3200 – 1. Philpott (SPG) 12:30.23
4x400 – 1. Blackwell, T. Harris, Ede, Alexis (SPG) 4:28.11