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At Winter Haven, Durant senior Grace VanDeGrift led the Cougars girls to the first region berth in program history with an overwhelming individual triumph at the 3A-4 meet at Polk State Park.
Running on a wet course, VanDeGrift (18:49.51) was essentially unchallenged, topping Dayna Cline of King by 37 seconds. Four of the top five girls finishers were from Hillsborough County.
The top 15 runners and top six teams in the boys and girls races qualified for the Region 2 meet at New Port Richey’s Starkey Park.
“It wasn’t (VanDeGrift’s) best time on the planet, but there was no push (from behind),” said Cougars coach Mike Gursky, whose team finished fourth. “Every time I turned around, the next-best person was 5-, 6-, 700 meters behind her.”
Cline (19:26.35) helped lead King to a second-place finish, 12 points behind Lake Region.
In the boys race, Armwood’s Brandon Duncan finished third (16:36.11) to lead the local contingent. Durant’s Michael Eidge, who placed fourth (16:55.06), was the only other county runner to eclipse 17 minutes.
Sickles, which got top-10 finishes from Jonathon Bermudez and David Piatt, finished second with 84 points — seven behind Lakeland’s George Jenkins. Armwood (162) and Durant (169) were third and fourth, respectively.