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Eagles, Rams race to conference titles

Eric Cummings took first place in a school record time of 15 mintes, 18 seconds for three miles to lead Springstead High to the boys team title in the Gulf Coast Conference cross-country championships at McKethan Lake Park Saturday morning. The Eagles won with 29 points and placed five runners in the top 14 places. The top 14 runners at the meet received all-conference honors. Also placing for Springstead were Willie Hill (third, 15:55), Don Rapuzzi (fourth, 15:55), Sheldon Nugara (eighth, 16:03) and Chad Atkinson (13th, 16:26). Clint Daniel finished 15th for Springstead in 16:39.

The win was Cummings' first of the year. Cummings often places in the top three in local meets, usually behind teammate Hill.

Gulf's Aimee Lund posted her 32nd career win with a career-best time of 11:20 for two miles in the girls race. Lund finished six seconds ahead of runner-up Gail Pennachio of Ridgewood, leading the Buccaneers to second place.

Ridgewood finished first behind Pennachio. Ridgewood's Michelle Tryllko, Bridgett McElroy and Leslie Coulter earned all-conference honors.

The Rams' boys finished second to Springstead behind Alex Martinez, who finished in second individually in 15:27. Martinez has won three meets this year.

Cummings was pleased with the win.

"It's better to be in front," Cummings said. "I was expecting to stay behind Willie and Alex, but at the two-mile mark Willie trailed off, and at 2{ I gained ground on Alex and he just couldn't hold on."

Eagle coach Fred Hudson called Springstead's first conference win "phenomenal."

"We've got to feel great about today," Hudson said. "Eric was great, Don (Rapuzzi) had a personal best at 15:55 _ I'm not concerned about Willie's performance. Willie's been dehydrated, so were trying to get him back into form."

The girls' finish was much closer than usual for Lund. Lund normally finishes at least 20 seconds in front of the pack. But Pennachio ran a career-best 11:28.

"We were neck and neck most of the way," Lund said. "Usually Gail and I are close in the first mile, but by the second mile she fades away. She didn't fade today."