ZAK LUCAS INVITATIONAL
McKethan Lake, Brooksville
Boys team standings: 1. Nature Coast 27, 2. George Jenkins 56, 3. Springstead 81, 4. Crystal River 101, 5. Mitchell 102
Girls team standings: 1. George Jenkins 45, 2. Nature Coast 61, 3. Crystal River 73, 4. Mitchell 88, 5. Springstead 111
BROOKSVILLE — While Nature Coast qualified for state last season on the depth of its lineup, James Harkless never tasted victory until Saturday's running of the 36th annual Zak Lukas Invitational at McKethan Lake Park in Brooksville.
Harkless, who bettered his personal best by four seconds, won the race in 16 minutes, 44 seconds, just ahead of teammate and defending event champion Cody Van Natter (16:50). Van Natter, a senior, finished fourth at this race as a sophomore as well.
"I feel so much more relaxed this year," Harkless said. "I didn't even feel like I was going that fast, and before I knew it, the race was over."
The Sharks (27 points) easily won the boys team title over George Jenkins (56) on the shoulders of Harkless, Van Natter, Kevin Ciccone (fourth, 17:13) and Stephen Murphy (seventh, 17:36). Harkless is the lone junior and the other three are seniors.
Notably missing from the fray was Nature Coast standout William Sandifer. Another senior, Sandifer ran an 18:26 at state last season but is coming off a right knee injury. He ran well in the junior varsity race.
Mitchell junior Troy Shea (17:21) rounded out the top five. Springstead junior Jesse Laurenti (17:49), a transfer from Weeki Wachee, took ninth, and Springstead's James Amodie (17:32) was sixth; they were the only other North Suncoast runners in the top 10.
In the girls race, George Jenkins (45) edged Nature Coast (61) for the team crown, with five runners in the top 15.
Though they did not win the title, the Sharks had arguably the most impressive performance in program history. Four runners finished in the top 15, and two broke the school record held by Brianna Horn (21:13) in 2010.
"I am very happy with how our girls performed," Nature Coast coach Eric Milholland said. "Every girl in the lineup (set a personal best Saturday)."
While Crystal River senior Clarissa Consol (19:55) won the race and Mitchell senior Claudia Cancello (20:07) was the runnerup, Nature Coast freshman Alexa Lacy (20:50) was sixth and junior Mary Thomson (21:07), who has been dealing with leg issues, was under the record and was ninth.