NEW PORT RICHEY — If you talked to any of the runners participating in the Mitchell Invitational 5K cross country race early Saturday morning, they would have told you that the course at Starkey Park is one of roughest tracks around.
But no terrain could halt the Wiregrass Ranch girls and boys from claiming team titles, as Bulls pulled away in both fields with strong performances from a slew of runners.
"We came in here with a goal of trying to run seven girls under 22 minutes and have seven in the top 25," Wiregrass Ranch girls coach Don Howard said. "We're still trying to figure out where we are as a team. I'm very happy with the way we ran today though."
Howard's goal was nearly reached by his girls runners, as six Bulls finished in less than 22 minutes and in the top 25, including sophomore Nikita Shah (fourth overall in 19 minutes, 59 seconds) and junior Ariel Grey (seventh, 20:23). The Bulls girls squad finished with 46 points, easily outdistancing second-place Indian Rocks Christian (104).
Mitchell's Kelli Williams (19:21) had a strong day, finishing second behind Northside Christian's Katelyn Greenleaf (19:14).
The Wiregrass boys posted similar results in the team standings, finishing with 46 points, topping second-place George Jenkins (112) easily.
The Bulls were without top runner Ryan Pulsifer, who was out with a hip injury. But the Bulls placed three runners in the top 10, led by Josh Reilley (16:34), who finished second. Sam Hippely was sixth (16:50) and Ermias Bireda seventh (16:53).
"I needed to step up today, and I believe I did that," said Reilley, who was 16 seconds behind winner Alex Foss of George Jenkins.
Other North Suncoast notables were Ridgewood's Kolby Watson (third, 16:40), Sunlake's Kenneth Fessel (ninth, 17:14) and Nature Coast's Cody Van Natter (10th, 17:26).