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District cross country: Land O'Lakes, Mitchell end title droughts

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Thu. October 24, 2013 | Derek J. LaRiviere

BROOKSVILLE — Two Pasco County programs made school history in the Class 3A, District 7 championships at McKethan Lake Park on Thursday.

The Land O’Lakes boys captured their first district title since 2004. Although the Gators are perennial contenders for the crown, finishing second or third in each season over the past decade, they had been unable to get that first-place trophy since then.

The team was led by a dominant effort at the top from seniors Travis Nichols, Tyler Stahl and Jake Poore. Nichols captured his second career individual district title, crossing the line in 15 minutes, 38 seconds. Stahl (15:46) and Poore (15:48), who stayed in a pack with Nichols most of the race, followed close behind.

“It’s always nice to be able to achieve something like this in your senior season,” Nichols said. “The district title means even more though because of what (Land O’Lakes coach Kris Keppel) is going through.”

Keppel, the longtime Gators leader, has begun cancer treatment and has been an inspiration for his squad. With only 25 points and seven runners in the top 14, Land O’Lakes had no issues overtaking runnerup Lecanto (77).

Mitchell’s girls took home their first district title, led by a second-place individual finish from junior Emily Kerns (19:16).

The Mustangs (54 points) narrowly defeated Land O’Lakes (58) by placing three runners in the top 10. Leah Thompson (20:39) and Jordan Spicer (20:56) were sixth and seventh, respectively.

“We were confident coming into (Thursday),” Kerns said. “Every girl on our team other than two is running cross country for the first time ever, which is what makes this accomplishment even more impressive for all of us.”

Springstead sophomore Amber Philpott took home top honors despite being the cause of a restart after she was toppled to the ground during the first attempt. Philpott cut her left hand, and running in some pain, still was able to cross the line in 18:31, 45 seconds ahead of the field.

“I usually run with my hand in a fist, but because of the cut I had to run with it open,” Philpott said. “It was throbbing, but I tried not to let it affect me.”

2A-10: Anclote girls move on
Academy of the Holy Names swept the top two spots and placed six girls in the top nine to cruise to the Class 2A, District 10 championship Thursday morning at Taylor Park.

Junior Colleen Doherty won the district title, finishing in 19 minutes, 59.80 seconds. The Jaguars finished with 20 points — 31 ahead of runnerup Berkeley Prep. Anclote finished third to advance to next week’s Class 2A, Region 3 meet.

Jesuit was  nearly as dominant in  its 25-point win over runnerup Berkeley Prep. Senior Tim O’Loughlin finished second in 16:22 — 21 seconds behind Bradenton Bayshore’s Canaan Meester-Kitterman. The Tigers claimed every position from fifth through 10th.

Anclote placed fourth as a team behind Stefanos Katsiopis’ 12th-place showing.

Matt Baker, Times staff writer

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