LECANTO - Mitchell High girls cross country coach Jeff Leavey may have found his new Kelli Williams, and Pasco County may have found its new Nikita Shah. That’s because Mustangs junior Emily Kerns may be the new dominant runner in Pasco County.
Kerns was the top Pasco County runner at the Lecanto Invitational on Saturday at Panther Field. She took sixth with a time of 19:48, while Ridgewood’s Cynthia Negron was 12th with a time of 21:42.
Land O’ Lake’s High freshman Izzy Brown was 13th (21:52) and Kerns’ teammate, Jordan Spicer, was 16th (22:05).
The Land O’ Lakes girls were fifth with 200 points, while Mitchell was sixth at 203 and Ridgewood was 12th at 342 points.
“It was OK, I guess,’’ Kerns said of her race. “I didn’t get what I wanted. It was a hard course. I wanted first, of course, but I should have had top five. Sixth is good, so I’m happy with that.
“I have been training hard all summer,” Kerns added. “I just kind of fell in love with running. I have been running on a lot of hills all summer so I like hills. I feel like I could have been stronger.”
Leavey feels Kerns is becoming a great distance runner.
“We got sixth overall. Jordan Spicer was top 20. That’s amazing. She ran two minutes faster than she did a year ago today. No one ever expected her to be top 20. I’m elated. They run at 6 in the morning. They do everything that I ask them to. To see it come to fruition here is very gratifying.”
Nichols takes first for boys at Lecanto
Land O’ Lakes senior Travis Nichols used a late kick to win the Lecanto Invitational at 16:05 that led the Gators to a second-place finish. Jacksonville Mandarin, a state runner-up last year, won with 53 points. The Gators had 78 points. Mitchell was ninth with 204 points and Pasco was 13th with 445.
Nichols had some strong support, too. Senior Tyler Stahl came off a week of sickness to finish sixth at 16:26, Jake Poore was eighth at 16:52, Steven Barnabei was 30th at 17:55 and Austin Dotson was 33rd at 18;05.
Mitchell’s Troy Shea was 17th at 17:20 and Fivay’s Kenny Walker was 24th at 17:37.
“I didn’t catch the guy in first until the last 40 meters,’’ Nichols said. “I was in third place the whole time until the end. (The course is) not that fast. I like it. It was definitely satisfying.’’
“(I feel) pretty good (about finishing second),’’ Gators coach Kris Keppel said. “We will get there. We wanted to get Jake under 17 and he did that. Steven and Austin were a little bit off. I’m pretty happy.”
Land O’ Lakes’ next meet is Saturday in Gainesville at the University of Florida Mountain. Dew Invitational, which is a 30-team event.
Correspondent Larry Bugg can be reached at email@example.com