Hernando senior takes first place

Ben Martucci wins the boys race at the Lecanto Invitational, and Wharton junior Katrina Skinner takes first in the girls event.

Published September 17, 2006

LECANTO - Hernando senior Ben Martucci and Crystal River senior Joe Greer combined for a one-two punch across the finish line at the Lecanto Invitational on Saturday.

Along with his brother Drew, Ben Martucci, Greer, Wharton's Baker Burchfield and Laurent Williams of Buchholz (Gainesville) kept in the top 10 early in the race. With the Martucci brothers pushing through the pack, Greer and Ben Martucci took off in the last mile.

As Greer closed in, Drew Martucci dropped back and finished fourth behind Burchfield.

"I kept calling (Drew's) name," Ben Martucci said about his brother. "But I had to save it."

"It's always great to win," he added. "To get that worrying off your back."

Times were not available for the boys races.

Martucci's win gave Hernando a second-place team finish with 68 points, four points behind Buchholz, the boys winner. Crystal River finished third overall with 79 points despite missing two of their top five runners, who opted not to run after the Pirates' homecoming. Lecanto finished fourth with 120 points, including an eighth-place finish by senior Nick Farrington.

Fueled on four hours of sleep and a late-night run to Denny's, Greer bested his previous course time by 22 seconds.

"It's my senior year, and I wanted to enjoy homecoming," Greer said. "I got home at 2:30 in the morning, and I was in bed in like five seconds."

Land O'Lakes boys team finished seventh (178 points), with River Ridge (269) in ninth, Ridgewood (279) in 10th and Central (293) in 11th.

The meet wasn't mandatory for Crystal River, whose girls team opted not to attend despite being ranked ninth in the Class 2A www.flrunners.com coaches poll.

Wharton junior Katrina Skinner finished first in 19 minutes, 40 seconds, followed by Niceville's Chanelle Cox (19:42). Hernando's Anna Gray was the top area finisher (21:24), even though she was recently in the hospital for strep throat. She returned to practice Monday after being out for two weeks.

"Coach told me to hang back toward the No. 2 girl, but I was feeling good so I went for it," Gray said.

Lourdes Academy won the girls team total with 42 points, followed by Wharton (80 points) and Buchholz (94). Gulf finished sixth with 182 points, followed by Ridgewood (279). Land O'Lakes finished ninth with 292 points, and Lecanto finished 10th with 295 points despite missing its top runner, Taylor Cooke.

More than 30 teams and 600 runners competed.