NEW PORT RICHEY — Saturday's Mitchell Invitational at Starkey Park featured a senior coming into his own.
Nature Coast standout James Harkless (17 minutes, 18 seconds) won for the second week in a row. Before winning last week's Nature Coast Shark Invitational he had only one previous victory.
"I'm very happy with (Saturday's) performance," Harkless said. "Knowing that there were 226 (runners) competing in this race and the team finishing fourth overall, it was a big confidence booster."
In this same race last year, he finished in 18:11 and outside of the top 10 in 16th place.
Osceola handily won the boys' title with 67 points, ahead of runnerup Winder-Barrow (95). Winder-Barrow traveled 500 miles from Winder, Ga., to compete against top competition on the Suncoast. William Wright (third, 17:33) and Nelson Lofton (ninth, 17:51) placed in the top 10 for the Bulldogs.
The Warriors had three runners in the top 10, including runnerup Abimael Jimenez. Jimenez, a sophomore and state qualifier last year, finished in 17:27. Teammate Hunter McCann (17:46), who finished fifth in this race last season, placed eighth this time, and Reggie Cape (17:52) was 10th.
For the second straight week, Gulf's James Raymond impressed with a top finish. Raymond (17:43) placed seventh, just behind the Sickles' duo of James Zentmeyer (fourth, 17:39) and Paris Williams (fifth, 17:40).
Winder-Barrow took an individual crown in the girls' race when Micah Weathers won in 19:13, breaking the meet record set by Northside Christian runner Katelyn Greenleaf (19:14) in 2010.
George Jenkins (87 points) won the team crown ahead of second-place Steinbrenner (154), in large part because of Emily English (fifth, 20:22) and Victoria Jung (eighth, 20:29).
Gulf's Kari Grippo (20:27), who placed second in this race last year, was seventh, actually running 11 seconds faster this year. Sickles' Abby Grant (20:22) did much the same. She was fourth last season and sixth this year.
Mitchell's Emily Kerns, who won the Anclote Invitational last weekend, took fourth. The junior placed 10th in the Mustangs home race last year in 21:37, but by crossing the line in 19:53, she finished fourth this season.