BY IZZY GOULD
Times Staff Writer
NEW PORT RICHEY — A football field separated Sickles senior Derek Wehunt from the race leader with less than a mile to go.
The Gryphons star cross country runner was fighting a lingering cold, then he got a boost when he noticed Sarasota senior Jonathan Lanning turning his head to size up his lead.
"That kind of fired me up," Wehunt said. "I just started sprinting from there."
Wehunt caught Lanning roughly 100 yards from the finish on the final stretch of grass Saturday and passed him to win his third boys Class 4A, District 4 title at Starkey Wilderness Park with a time of 16 minutes, 8 seconds.
Wehunt helped Sickles to a third-place team finish with Julian Gines (17:37), Marc Dejute (17:38) and Daniel Wehunt (17:49) all finishing in the top 20.
Host Mitchell finished fifth with top runner Sebastian Ruiz coming in 15th (17:41). And Durant was eighth thanks in large part to John Mitchell, who finished fourth (16:57).
In girls competition, Mitchell sophomore Kelli Williams surprised the field in her first season of cross country, winning on her home course in 20:34 and helping her team to sixth place.
East Lake's Katherine McMeekin and Durant sophomore Grace VanDeGrift were favorites entering the race and finished second (20:38) and third (20:49), respectively.
Gaither's Julissa Lopez (21:01) and Sandra Pratt (21:04) helped their team to fourth. Sickles finished third thanks to Emily Wehunt, who was 13th (21:30).
East Bay was eighth thanks to Lauren Verbosky (21:18) and Morgan Williams (21:21), who were 11th and 12th, respectively.
"I just found it in me," Kelli Williams said. "I didn't expect it."