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Leopard shines at crowded race

Most runners are notoriously finicky about split times, so it was not unusual to hear Leela Hadsock dwell a little on a 6 minute, 50 second opening mile.

But the Hernando senior is no fool. She recognized her accomplishment in finishing second in 20:09 at Saturday's Lecanto Invitational.

"That just means that I ran the rest of the race twice as hard," Hadsock said.

Her time was just seven seconds slower than the 20:02 ran at the unofficial season opener Aug. 28 at the Red Mule Runners Labor Day 5K in Brooksville. Saturday was a solid run considering the season since then has been plagued by storms and race cancellations.

Saturday was the first race of the season for Citrus County schools, and the hosts showed solid form in taking second among girls teams with 106 points, trailing only Vero Beach (69).

A number of excellent out-of-area teams joined the race this week after the UF Gator Invitational was canceled. They got in a good race on a hilly course and took home much of the hardware.

Vero Beach duplicated its girls feat with a boys win, earning 108 points to outpace Hernando (130) and Sarasota (133). In the boys race, Scott Mackley of Lakeland Kathleen won in 16:38 over 3.1 miles, topping Orlando Bishop Moore's Andrew Byrnes.

Steven Lang of Land O'Lakes finished third in 16:59, the only North Suncoast boy in the top five.

"Under 17 (minutes), I'm very happy about that," the senior said. "I just tried to stay behind (the leaders) the whole race, then I try and sprint past them at the end."

Lang said he passed four competitors down the stretch.

In the girls race, which began at about 8:40 on a humid morning, Sara Petrick of Academy of the Holy Names ran 19:51, the only runner to break 20 minutes. Her team was coming off a race at Florida State the previous weekend, where a large hill dominates the course.

With that experience, she was able to handle Lecanto.

"I wanted to get out very strong, and I think I accomplished that," Petrick said. "This is a really nice course, a lot of ups and downs. It motivated me, it was fun trying to work up a hill and then racing really fast down."

Wesley Chapel's Stephanie Amerman (20:36) finished fifth, Holly Van Sicklen of Crystal River (20:47) seventh and Gulf sophomore Nicole Berkey (20:58) ninth.

On the boys side, Lang's teammate Steven Bell was sixth (17:07), River Ridge's Brett Litak (17:19) ninth and Jacob Bess of Central (17:25) 11th.