Sickles finishes first in Land O'Lakes 5K

Published September 10, 2006

SPRING HILL - In what was expected to be a three-man race at the 10th annual Land O' Lakes Invitational 5K, Sickles' Derek Wehunt defeated his area rivals from Jesuit and Hernando on Saturday morning at Crews Lake Park.

With only meters remaining in the race, Wehunt was caught in a neck-and-neck sprint with Hernando's Ben Martucci. But Wehunt, who has a much stronger mile time, was able to outlast the Leopards' top runner. Connor Revord of Jesuit, who defeated Martucci head-to-head only weeks before, finished third.

"This is the first time I have beaten either Ben or Connor," Wehunt said. "I was able to take the lead at the right time, and then it just came down to a straightaway."

Many of the competitors praised the difficulty of the course, calling it one of the toughest they'll see all season. Revord was disappointed in his finish, calling into question his approach to the race.

"I didn't stick to the strategy I had going into the race, and it ended up catching up with me," Revord said. "Ben and Derek both ran better races than I have seen from them in the past."

Sickles took home the overall boys team title with 54 points, due to the finishes from Wehunt, Dan Wehunt (ninth) and Ciprian Mejia (10th). Jesuit and Hernando tied for second with 75 points each.

On the girls side, Pasco's LeeAnn Eble (20:32) won despite coping with an illness. The victory at Land O'Lakes was her second in two years. She won last season as a freshman in her first-ever cross country race.

Wesley Chapel's Kirsten Fee was second, nine seconds behind Eble at 20:41. South Lake's Kaylee Brown (20:57), Lake Region's Krystal Benman (21:16) and South Lake's Arianna Rangel (21:30) rounded out the top five.

Lake Region won the girls team crown with 77 points. South Lake finished 10 points back to take second place.

Sickles' Nicia Mejia also had a strong performance in the race, finishing in eighth place after finishing in 21:55.