The heirs apparent assumed their rightful positions Saturday, when a pair of Lecanto High runners who each placed second in last year's Gulf Coast Conference high school cross-country championships won their own individual GCC crowns.
Sean McManus, runner-up to Hernando High's Eric Omdahl in 1993, won the 3-mile boys race in 15 minutes, 15 seconds, and Emilie Ruetenik, second to Hernando's Gina Bawden a season ago, was the girls winner with a 2-mile time of 12:05 at McKethan Lake Park.
The status quo held firm in the team title chase, as Lecanto's nationally ranked boys won with a perfect score of 15 for their third- consecutive GCC championship and Hernando's girls successfully repeated as conference winners.
"We knew Hernando and Central had a couple of good runners," said McManus, who beat his closest teammate by eight seconds. "So we knew that if we ran well, we could score 15, but we weren't sure."
If Lecanto's perfection was to be prevented, Panther coach Tim Byrne figured it would be either Hernando's Shawnn O'Connor or Central's Joe O'Donnell doing the damage.
But O'Connor wound up seventh in 16:05 and O'Donnell eighth in 16:10, both of them trailing a line of Lecanto runners who collectively are ranked No.
21 nationally by The Harrier magazine and No.
1 among statewide Class 4A teams.
Keith Gordon, who ran with McManus for the first mile, was second in 15:22. Jeremy Edge was third in 15:27, followed by teammates Adam Spate (15:40), Gary Plutta (15:44) and Derek Ellis (16:01). All ran personal-best times, as did Lecanto's seventh runner, 12th-place Travis Tatman (15:37). Each team's top five individual places are added together to determine team scores.
"This was our best meet of the year," said Byrne, whose Panthers are undefeated and have beaten the state's top-ranked team in every other classification this season. "Our focus really wasn't on winning, because we pretty much knew that was going to happen. Our focus was on fighting off challenges, and we wanted our five, six and seven guys to stand up to those challenges. They did that."
Lecanto's Ruetenik was running as much for her teammates as herself in winning the girls race, but even that couldn't keep Hernando from taking the title.
"I didn't really have a goal of my own," said Ruetenik, a senior who clipped 18 seconds off her personal-best time. "We had a team goal to beat the Hernando girls. I just wanted to help the team as best I could."
To win her first race of the season Ruetenik held off runner-up teammate Cindy Ketchum and third-place Brooke Bastien of Central, both credited with finishing in 12:12.
"I thought I could (win), but me and Cindy have been going back and forth all season," Ruetenik said. "We kind of help each other. She was the (Citrus) County winner, so I guess we're kind of even now."
Lecanto was second with 47, followed by Central, Citrus and Crystal River. Hernando's victory over Lecanto was its first this season.
Gulf Coast Conference
Results of the high school meet held Saturday at McKethan Lake Park in Brooksville:
Team results: 1. Lecanto (Lec) 15; 2. Hernando (Her) 53; 3. Central (Cen) 74; 4. Citrus (Cit) 103; 5. South Sumter 168; 6. Crystal River (CR) 231.
Individual results (3 miles; Top 14 earn all-conference recognition): 1. Sean McManus (Lec) 15:12; 2. Keith Gordon (Lec) 15:22; 3. Jeremy Edge (Lec) 15:27; 4. Adam Spate (Lec) 15:40; 5. Gary Plutta (Lec) 15:44; 6. Derek Ellis (Lec) 16:01; 7. Shawwn O'Connor (Her) 16:05; 8. Joe O'Donnell (Cen) 16:10; 9. Philip Borozny (Her) 16:15; 10. Jonathan Britton (Her) 15:21; 11. Brandon Lauria (Cen) 16:29; 12. Travis Tatman (Lec) 16:37; 13. Andrew Malcolm (Her) 16:39; 14. Jay Gregory (Her) 16:39; 15. Brian Holmes (CR) 16:53; 16. Christian Feldt (Cit) 16:59; 17. Andy Cappiello (Cen) 17:00; 18. Akindeji Hill (Cen) 17:27; 19. Jim Harrington (Cit) 17:33; 20. Scott Puttre (Cen) 17:38.
Team results: 1. Hernando (Her) 34; 2. Lecanto (Lec) 47; 3. Central (59); 4. Citrus (Cit) 92; 5. Crystal River 135; NTS _ South Sumter (SS).
Individual results (2 miles; Top 14 earn all-conference recognition): 1. Emilie Ruetenik (Lec) 12:05; 2. Cindy Ketchum (Lec) 12:12; 3. Brooke Bastien (Cen) 12:12; 4. Cassie Nowicki (Her) 12:21; 5. Vanessa Nowicki (Her) 12:23; 6. Loretta Lambright (Her) 12:44; 7. Stephanie Poe (Her) 12:51; 8. Elisa Ginabreda (Cit) 13:05; 9. Amy Beams (Lec) 13:07; 10. Kelly Hughes (Cen) 13:27; 11. Shannon Akerman (Cen) 13:31; 12. Melissa Hancock (Her) 13:43; 13. Erin Chatman (Her) 13:45; 14. Shannon Shepherd (Cen) 13:50; 15. Kari Cassidy (Cit) 13:52; 16. Tanya Jones (Lec) 14:19; 17. Leah Elkins (SS) 14:31; 18. Sarah Bedford (Cit) 14:34; 19. Felicia Munoz (Lec) 14:38; 20. Jessica Peterson (Her) 14:41.