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BROOKSVILLE — With Springstead breathing down its neck all afternoon, Nature Coast pulled out an improbable last-minute victory on the boys side of the Hernando County Track Championships on Thursday.
The Sharks (109 points) have been the top track program in the county the past four years but narrowly escaped the Eagles. Although the team was competing on its home track, the four-point win over Springstead wasn’t decided until the final event.
Will Hall (long jump, high jump) and Thomas Watson (400, 800 meters) won two events each for Springstead. The two helped put the up-and-coming program ahead.
“I wanted to set (personal bests) here in everything,” Springstead’s Will Hall said. “I have the natural ability to jump. I just need to keep working on my technique.”
Nature Coast hung tough throughout with the usual distance performances, winning the 3200 (Stephen Murphy), 1600 (Tyler Moore) and 4x800. Ja’Juan Story, the best sprinter in the area, also held his own by blowing away the competition in the 100.
It came down the last event of the evening, the 4x400 relay. The Sharks needed only to finish second. Although they had injuries on the first two legs, Nature Coast had Brenton Nuby on the third leg and Story running anchor.
Springstead broke out to a huge lead and had almost a 200-meter lead going into the final leg when Nuby handed off to Story. At this point, Nature Coast was last behind Weeki Wachee. Story turned on the jets and passed Central at the line to finish second and clinch the team win.
“This meet is about pride,” Nature Coast coach Ryan Wilson said. “The one thing this tells me is that we have a lot of work to do before district if we are going to beat Wiregrass Ranch.”
The Springstead girls got a measure of revenge by winning the title over Nature Coast. With 120 points, the Eagles edged their rivals by eight.
Wilena Little (100, 200) dominated the sprinting events, and Mikayla Bogulski (800, 1600) showed her mettle by winning two distance events. In addition to individual victories, numerous Eagles placed. It was Springstead’s first county title since 2007.
Among the other athletes to shine were Central’s Raqurra Ishmar (shot put, discus) and Tikiera Relaford (400, high jump), both of whom are aiming for state in their senior campaigns.