WESLEY CHAPEL — The Wiregrass Ranch girls cross country team asserted its Sunshine Athletic Conference dominance again Saturday, claiming a fifth consecutive conference title, but the three-year run of the Bulls' boys team was ended by Land O'Lakes.
Led by senior Travis Nichols' victory, the Gators boys (38 points) beat the Bulls (52) and hoisted the SAC trophy for the first time since edging Wiregrass Ranch by a point in 2008. Nichols, last year's SAC race runnerup, won in 15 minutes, 48 seconds as teammate and running partner Tyler Stahl (personal-best 15:57) took second.
The Bulls were led by senior Ermias Bireda (16:08), who repeated his third-place finish from last year. Patrick Hill (fifth, 16:40) and Thor Alastre (ninth, 17:08) also placed in the top 10 for Wiregrass Ranch.
The Bulls' victory in the girls race was nothing short of dominant as Wiregrass scored 26 points to Gulf's 68. Bulls senior Nikita Shah, who broke out as one of the top distance runners in the state last year, tied the SAC record established by Gulf's Kari Grippo (18:31) last season at Crews Lake Park in Shady Hills. Shah placed second in that race and second the year before.
The Bulls also featured strong runs from Berlin Waters (third, 19:32), Elise Cedre (fifth, 19:52) and Madison Conway (sixth, (20:00) as Wiregrass placed four in the top 10.
Grippo (20:10), who has been dealing with injuries for much of the past year, crossed in seventh, just ahead of Eliza Gazda (20:45).
Mitchell standout Claudia Cancello (19:10) and sophomore Emily Kerns (19:34) led the Mustangs to a third-place team finish.