BROOKSVILLE — On a brisk, 50-degree morning at Nature Coast, the host Sharks emerged with their first district title in school history with an amazing performance Saturday.
The boys team (16 points) was only one point away from a perfect score at the Class 2A, District 6 championship.
Led by race winner Cody Van Natter, Nature Coast also had the second, third, fourth and sixth-place finishers. Van Natter, who has now won two consecutive races, crossed the line in 16 minutes, 54 seconds, only 20 seconds off of his personal best.
With Nature Coast also hosting the region championship next week, Van Natter was happy with his time and spoke about the advantages of running on his home course in the postseason.
"It was a little cold this morning, but once I warmed up, I felt real comfortable (on the track)," he said. "The whole team knows the course really well, and because of that, we know where to speed up and where to pace ourselves. It helps a lot."
Van Natter, a junior, was able to push teammates James Harkless (16:58), Kevin Ciccone (17:05) and Tyler Moore (17:07) to some of their best times ever.
"Since getting away from the pack running during the middle of the season, I've seen Cody really take off," coach Eric Milholland said. "The good thing about that is that he pushes guys like James Harkless to do more as well."
Hernando's Parker Steinkamp (17:19) was the lone runner to break up the Sharks sweep at the top of the boys leaderboard. The senior helped push Hernando (85 points) to a third-place finish in the team standings, enough to qualify for region.
Tavares (43 points) won the girls' title with Nature Coast (54) and Pasco (59) not far behind, but no one came close to the individual performance of Mount Dora's Ashley Heitling (18:43).
Heitling was almost three minutes better than the first local runner to finish, Pasco's Victoria Baker (21:31).
"The flat course really helped a lot of runners out there," said Baker, who ran her best time of the year. "I really like this course, and it's going to help a lot coming back here next week."
Boys team scores: Nature Coast 16, Tavares 64, Hernando 85, Mount Dora 106, Eustis 115, Pasco 126
Individuals: Van Natter, Nature Coast 16:54; Harkless, Nature Coast 16:58; Ciccone, Nature Coast 17:05; Moore, Nature Coast 17:07; Steinkamp, Hernando 17:19; Murphy, Nature Coast 17:26; Stratton, Nature Coast 17:29; Higginbotham, Tavares 17:40; Sandifer, Nature Coast 17:48; Worfel, Tavares 18:45; Lewis, Hernando 18:48; Hernandez, Pasco 18:48; Moler, Tavares 18:55
Girls team scores: Tavares 43, Nature Coast 54, Pasco 59, Hernando 98, Mount Dora 109
Individuals: Heitling, Mount Dora 18:43; Northrup, Tavares 20:13; Bilz, Tavares 20:40; Baker, Pasco 21:31; Mercadente, Pasco 21:37; Thomson, Nature Coast 22:17; Loose, Hernando 22:21; LaSanta, Nature Coast 22:28; Thomson, Nature Coast 22:30; MacLean, Tavares 22:35; Boswell, Hernando 22:39; Mallo, Tavares 22:45; Newlon, Pasco 23:12