BROOKSVILLE — A week after capturing their first district title, the Nature Coast boys are headed to state as the Class 2A, Region 2 champions as well.
The Sharks dominated on its home course, scoring 39 points, far ahead of runnerup Lake Highland Prep (71).
Nature Coast nearly had a perfect score last week at districts, and Saturday morning’s race was equally impressive as all seven runners for the Sharks crossed the finish in the top 30, led by third-place finisher Cody Van Natter.
Van Natter (16 minutes, 25 seconds), the individual district champion, set a personal best by finishing nearly 30 seconds ahead of the pace he set on the same course last weekend. He was followed by teammate James Harkless (16:48) in fourth.
“When Cody’s out in front like that, it makes our whole team better,” Nature Coast coach Eric Milholland said. “We didn’t perform so well at region last season, so I hope we can carry this momentum into (next week at) state.”
Hernando senior Parker Steinkamp (17:03) continued his impressive postseason with an eighth-place finish and a personal-best time of his own to qualify for state for the first time. He foreshadowed his performance prior to the start of the race.
“I feel like a champion, and if I feel like a champion, I’ll run like one,” Steinkamp said.
Gulf (196 points) also qualified for state with a sixth-place team finish. Nick Buliga led the way for the Bucs with an 11th-place individual finish.
The Gulf girls (66 points) fell just short of their goal of a region title, coming in second to Bishop Moore (64) by only two points.
Top Gulf runner Kari Grippo (18:35) also finished second, falling behind eventual champion Ashley Heitling of Mount Dora (18:31) down the stretch.
“She really played me through the entire race,” Grippo said. “She was 10 meters behind me the whole time, and then as we approached the last 100 meters, she passed me.”
Pasco (169 points) also qualified for state with a sixth place finish, just edging Nature Coast (176) for the final position.
Class 2A, Region 2
(at Nature Coast)
Team Results: Bishop Moore 64, Gulf 66, Lake Highland Prep 101, Crystal River 110, Tavares 131, Pasco 169
Top 15: Heitling, MD 18:31; Grippo, Gulf 18:35; Menton, TC 20:02; Northrup, Tav 20:15; Coyne, LP 20:26; Rodriguez, Poi 20:29; Skipper, BM 20:41; Savino, Gulf 20:47; Hatton, BM 20:50; Martinez, Rwd 21:02; Caleau, CR 21:04; Bilz, Tav 21:06; Slocum, BM 21:17; Deery, LHP 21:18; Baker, Pas 21:20
Team results: Nature Coast 39, Lake Highland Prep 71, Lake Nona 118, Jones 134, Frostproof 178, Gulf 196
Top 15: Papa, LHP 16:12; Shelton, LP 16:20; Van Natter, NC 16:25; Harkless, NC 16:48; Bailey, LHP 16:53; Ciccone, NC 16:59; Skidlesky, LHP 17:00; Steinkamp, Her 17:03; Chicas-Aguilar, Dun 17:05; Chenault, Jones 17:06; Hines, Jones 17:06; Buliga, Gulf 17:07; Moore, NC 17:16; Velez, LN 17:21; Murphy, NC 17:24