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Central High School

Boys Cross-Country

TONY CASTRO Hernando Today correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:48 PM

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No eyebrows were raised when Nature Coasts talented boys cross-country squad lifted its second team championship trophy in seven weeks.

Though the Sharks have carved out five top 10 finishes over the past six meets, they hadn't walked away with the tallest trophy since the season-opening, 22-team Lecanto Invitational on Sept. 8.

In Thursday's 3.1-mile, seven-team (the eighth school Weeki Wachee did not have enough runners for a team score) Hernando/Citrus Distance Classic at McKethan Lake, heavily favored Nature Coast held serve.

The Sharks placed five thinclads among the meet's initial nine finishers in the 100-runner field, to earn their third straight Distance Classic title by easily toppling runner-up Lecanto, 21-64.

Crystal River finished third (78) followed by Springstead (88), Hernando (145), Citrus (147) and Central (190).

Nature Coast was led by two-time Hernando Today Runner of the Year Cody Van Natter. Van Natter came ever so close to eclipsing his seasonal best of 16:50.43 behind a terrific 16:51.11 clocking.

After Van Natter, another Shark senior, Kevin Ciccione, finished runner-up in 16:58.80.

Junior James Harkless, who holds the fastest time in the county this season at 16:44.81, couldn't quite duplicate it with a fourth-place 17:25.51.

The Sharks' third senior, Stephen Murphy, finished fifth overall with a personal record 17:26.98 – almost 10 seconds faster than his previous seasonal best of 17:36.08.

A first-year thinclad, freshman Austin Mulyck, closed out the Shark scoring finishing ninth with a personal-best 17:52.86 clocking – shaving more than 11 seconds off his previous best of 18:04.00.

In the process, Thursday's 5K race also served as the Hernando County Championship – which Nature Coast clinched for the third straight season – all under skipper Eric Milholland.

"In our sport, you're only as good as your fifth man," described Coach Milholland. "We've juggled at number five all season. Our freshman (Mulyck) has really stepped up. I was impressed to see him run that time.

"I really can't say enough about him."

On whether the Sharks upped their game, "There's a lot of pressure on us," admitted Coach Milholland. "Everyone expects us to win. We come into nearly every race with targets on our backs. That being said, we're not the number one team in our region – but that's our goal.

"Pressure is something we have to learn to handle," added Coach Milholland. "I didn't expect James (Harkless) to have another great race here. He came in a little under the weather, but both Murphy and Mulyck both came through."

Van Natter became the second Shark to win a race this season – following Harkless, who captured the Zak Lukas Invitational on Sept. 15.

On the overcast afternoon, the 18-year-old Van Natter said, "I'd rather run in the morning. I had a hard time breathing."

On the Sharks' repeat success, "We were much more focused at the starting line than we've been all season. Our freshmen have really stepped up," described Van Natter. "I'm happy where we're at. The key is peaking at states."

Despite not feeling 100 percent, Harkless said, "It was a rough race. I didn't do what I wanted to do. I wanted us to finish 1-2-3. I guess I'm OK with fourth. I believe there's always something to improve on."

On next week's focus at districts, "The course at Mount Dora Bible is pretty tough," noted the 17-year-old Harkless. "There are a lot of hills."

"I thought it was pretty humid," described the 17-year-old Murphy. "But I thought we were pretty focused. This team has trained hard since the summer on one goal – to win states.

"Today, I felt pretty good, except I thought my leg left just kind of went along for the ride," scoffed Murphy. "We always pray before every meet. We praise God no matter what happens."

Though Springstead finished fourth overall, the Eagles placed two thinclads among the meet's top 10: juniors James Amodie and Jesse Laurenti.

Amodie (17:52.06) and Laurenti (17:55.10) finished eighth and tenth respectively.

"This was a good, tough race for us," described the 16-year-old Amodie. "I just felt a little off. I've been sick. I'd like to do better next week. I know I need to push it more in practice."

2012 Hernando/Citrus Distance Classic

at Brooksville's McKethan Lake

Team scores:

1. Nature Coast (NCT) 21, 2. Lecanto (LEC) 64, 3. Crystal River (CR) 78, 4. Springstead (SPG) 88, 5. Hernando (HER) 145, 6. Citrus (CIT) 147, 7. Central (CEN) 190, 8. Weeki Wachee (WW) NTS

Top 10 individuals

1. Cody Van Natter (NCT) 16:51.11, 2. Kevin Ciccone (NCT) 16:58.80, 3. Brandon Harris (CR) 17:07.37, 4. James Harkless (NCT) 17:25.51, 5. Stephen Murphy (NCT) 17:26.98, 6. Corey Pollard (CR) 17:37.92, 7. Sam Alford (LEC) 17:42.22, 8. James Amodie (SPG) 17:52.06, 9. Austin Mulyck (NCT) 17:52.86, 10. Jesse Laurenti (SPG) 17:55.10

NATURE COAST (21) – 1. Cody Van Natter 16:51.11, 2. Kevin Ciccone 16:58.80, 4. James Harkless 17:25.51, 5. Stephen Murphy 17:26.98, 9. Austin Mulyck 17:52.86, 23. Joe Clark 18:44.74, 29. Carlton Blackburn 19:02.75, 31. Matt Aubertin 19:13.19, 32. Jacob Rockwell 19:13.43, 62. Nick Deligio 20:40.63, 75. Nick Springer 22:09.85, 81. Kyle Armbruster 22:24.37.

SPRINGSTEAD (88) – 8. James Amodie 17:52.06, 10. Jesse Laurenti 17:55.10, 11. Carl Zee 18:02.16, 35. Joe Page 19:28.47, 39. Dennis "DJ" Carroll 19:39.47, 42. Jai Jackson 19:50.44, 46. Joseph Toth 19:57.94, 49. Jeff Amodie 20:01.47, 63. Patrick Deslaurier 20:49.87, 72. Bernard Ndedi 21:50.83, 73. Will Ebanks 21:55.53, 79. Anthony Samz 22:21.28, 84. Nathaneal Snyder 22:36.48, 90. Matt Bute 24:26.86, 92. Hank Deslaurier 25:00.54, 93. Rogelio Mendez 25:33.99.

HERNANDO (145) – 18. Tyler Pantley 18:31.10, 28. Charles Steinkamp 19:01.51, 30. Bailey Mosher 19:08.76, 45. Zach Lewis 19:57.70, 54. Clint Wilkins 20:16.06, 58. Christian Council 20:29.22, 59. Zach Dill 20:31.28, 60. Justin McGettigan 20:32.08, 65. John Lewis 21:04.35, 80. Augustine Loredo 22:21.89, 88. Dylan Wilson 23:23.94.

CENTRAL (190) – 37. Robert Archbell 19:33.30, 43. Quentin Washington 19:52.72, 48. Trevor Morris 19:59.39, 55. Vinny Napolitano 20:21.56, 66. Donte Forrester 21:15.82, 76. Robert Clay 22:17.28, 78. Josh Marquez 22:20.93, 91. Arthur Khalokov 24:54.04, 96. Alvin Chen 26:11.82, 97. Tyler Cline 28:16.81, 98. Matthew Rothey 31:47.55, 99. Tyler Gearhart 45;12.07, 100. Austin Goins 45:12.78.

WEEKI WACHEE (NTS) – 70. Marcel Boswell 21:26.75, 71. Denton Cannon 21:41.45, 83. Ronnie Metcalf 22:34.41.

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