NEW PORT RICHEY - Pasco High's Leeann Eble fell down once, but she still managed to win the girls title Saturday at the Mitchell Invitational cross country meet at Starkey Park.
The Wiregrass Ranch girls couldn't quite keep up with Eble, but Ariel Grey and four other Bulls were able to navigate the course well enough to give the second-year team a team title.
Eble won the race in 21 minutes, 3 seconds. Grey, a freshman, finished second, clocking in at 21:22. Lakeisha Brown of Wiregrass was fourth with a time of 22:45. Taylor Hixson was eighth with a 23:27. Megan Ibison was ninth with a 23:44. Hannah Still was 10th at 24:00.
Five runners in the top 10 gave Wiregrass 32 points and the team title.
There was no quicksand on this course, but the sugar-like sand and rough turf made Starkey Park's course tough to navigate.
Eble and others found they had to work hard to finish, and some just stumbled along the path.
'I leaned over on the ribbon,' Grey said. 'I saw her Eble on the ground. I'm not happy with my time, but I know that the trail is harder. I did well for this course. I wanted my time to be at least 21 minutes. The coach said it would be 50 to 45 seconds worse on the trail.'
'It is a slow course,' Wiregrass Ranch coach Don Howard said. 'Grey ran where she wanted to run. I am more impressed with five girls finishing in the top 10.
'I didn't know we would win this easily. I thought we would win the race. The girls ran really well. They managed to get through all of the obstacles. Most of them were within 30 seconds of their personal bests.'
Pasco's coach was grateful his star runner didn't let the spill keep her from winning the race.
'She's got a lot of courage to get back up and run,' Pirates coach Barry Grayling said. 'It's all sugar sand. Your feet get in deep. It's hard on the calves. There's quite a few potholes. It's a hard course. It's a challenging course, and that's what they need sometimes.'
Mitchell's Sebastian Ruiz took fifth in the boys race with a time of 18:18, and he said he wasn't too familiar with the course.
'I practice usually on the streets,' Ruiz said. 'It's probably the hardest course around here. I just moved here from Miami.'
The Mitchell boys finished second with 58 points. Brooksville Central won with 29 points.
'It's great,' Mitchell coach Jeff Leavey said. 'It was a great opportunity to run on a great course. The kids wanted to win. Central was a little bit better. It was fun, lots of fun. We expected this second place.'
The meet provided a preview to the upcoming Sunshine Athletic Conference meet Oct. 19 at Starkey Park. Some of the better Pasco County teams such as the Land O' Lakes boys and the Gulf and Wesley Chapel girls competed in the Southern Stars meet Saturday in Tampa.