SHADY HILLS — Land O'Lakes was back in the spotlight of its own Gator Invitational cross country meet for the first time in two years Saturday, finishing second to Sarasota for the boys title.
The Gators (78 points) took the runnerup spot behind Sarasota (32) as Tyler Stahl (16 minutes, 46 seconds) and Travis Nichols (16:59) finished third and fifth, respectively. Land O'Lakes boys were sixth last year.
The course ran a little slower than normal. Nichols, who finished third last year (16:21), found himself competing with his teammate and Anclote standout Spencer Guerette (16:59), who finished fourth, in a sprint to the line.
Wiregrass Ranch (95), another distance powerhouse, got solid showings from Ermias Biredas and Benjamin Hall. Biredas (17:04), who took fourth last season and 11th in 2010's event, placed seventh this time, and Hall (17:07) crossed in eighth.
Sarasota placed three runners in the top 10, including race winner Courtland Benard (16:29). Benard finished six seconds ahead of teammate Zachery Summerall for his second victory of the season. Sarasota's Adam Bradtmueller (17:17) rounded out the top 10.
Palm Harbor University (104) took the girls' crown over Sarasota (136). Depth was the key to the Hurricanes' win as only one of their runners finished in the top 10, with Brianna Paczynski (20:38) crossing in 10th. Sarah Swallow (14th), Sarah Raymond (20th), Taylor Smith (24th) and Kristina Lavrich (41st) picked up key points.
Freedom junior Annie Tedesco (20:13) was fourth as the lone Suncoast finisher in the top five. It was only Tedesco's third top five of her high school career and her first this season. She was followed by Newsome's Emily Zwijacz (20:25) in sixth, Largo's Marina Levine (20:27) in seventh, and Gaither's Rachel Cazares (20:35) in ninth.
The girls race was won by Belleview's Catherine Blaney in 19:47.