Nature Coast boys, girls remain tops in county track

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

The names and faces have changed, yet for Nature Coast’s track and field program, the results remained the same in the Hernando-Citrus Classic.
All nine schools from the two counties converged on Weeki Wachee’s football field on Thursday, and both the Nature Coast boys and girls remained the defending champs.
For the Lady Sharks, it was a bit of a surprise, though they scored 170 points to finish well ahead of second-place Lecanto with 135.
“It was a great feeling to see the team win another county championship,” Nature Coast girls coach Nikki Pierce said. “All we had was the virtual meet to look at online and Lecanto was beating us. We don’t have as strong a team as in the past and I had to look at where to spread my athletes. We went in not expecting a miracle, not expecting to win, but we spread everyone out and pulled it off.”
One critical decision for Pierce involved pulling the team’s top performer, her daughter Kaitlyn Pierce, out of all relays and asking her to compete in four individual events. She had done the same thing in the previous week’s Nature Coast Shark Classic.
The senior responded to the challenge, winning the 100 meter in 12.85, the 200 with a 27.31 and the 400 in a time of 1:02.66. She also took second in the triple jump (31-11 1/4).
“She was on paper supposed to score 38 points and that’s what she scored,” Coach Pierce said. “I said, ‘Honey, I need every one of those points.’
“She was thrilled with it. I was happy as a coach that she was able to do that two weeks in a row.”
Two more girls scored points in events in which they had not previously competed, as Velma Brinson took fourth in the 300 hurdles (54.41) and Jessica Osborne was eighth in the pole vault (6-0).
Other Lady Shark first-place finishers included Emily Escamilla in the 1,600 (5:52.14), the 4x800 (11:00.85) and the 4x400 (4:21.86).
“It makes me happy for the seniors that are graduating,” Coach Pierce said. “This year’s seniors, those girls won (the county) every year of their high school careers.
“Overall, I’m happy for the whole team. Everybody did their part, everybody did their job. They did amazing.”
Hernando’s Kaitlyn Batten took the 100 hurdles (17.23) and Springstead’s Jacy Scharlow won the high jump (5-2). Weeki Wachee’s Jasmine Mendoza was first in the 300 hurdles (52.08) and the Lady Hornets additionally had the fastest 4x100 (52.81).
Nature Coast’s boys scored 160 points, easily in front of Springstead’s second-place total of 123.
“It’s satisfying, but I felt like there was a lot of room for improvement,” Nature Coast boys coach Rudy Story said. “They performed well, but I really think they’re just scratching the surface of what they can do collectively as a team. They need to be more consistent in their work the next few weeks.
“It means we run a consistent program. It’s good to always kind of dominate the folks you see every day. You get some bragging rights.”
Hernando's Ygenio Booker leads the field during a sprint in Thursday's meet at Weeki Wachee. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Jacorey Hartman captured the 400 for the Sharks, posting a time of 53.63. Also, Nature Coast won all three relays, running an 8:34.08 in the 4x800, a 43.34 in the 4x100 and a 3:36.30 in the 4x400.
Ygenio Booker notched a first for Hernando in the 100 (10.86), and was second in the 200 (23.07) behind Springstead’s Nathan Sims (22.98). The Leopards’ Isaac Fields collected a win in the 300 hurdles (41.78) and the Eagles’ Jordan Wright did the same in the 110 hurdles (15.77).
Meanwhile, Springstead’s Kyle Manuel swept both throwing events, registering a 44-1 in the shot put and a 45.50 meters in the discus.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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