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Wheeler clears all hurdles

Kate Wheeler makes her career at Lecanto complete by placing in three events at state.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

LECANTO -- After winning multiple conference, district and regional titles, Lecanto senior Kate Wheeler hoped to finish her career in style.

She didn't disappoint.

In the Class 3A state meet in Coral Springs, Wheeler accounted for all of the Panthers' 11 points as they placed 20th.

She was eighth in the 100-meter hurdles (15.85 seconds), seventh in the long jump (17 feet, 7.75 inches) and second in the high jump after leaping a career-best 5-6.

"I had never even tried (5-6), and I made it on my first try," Wheeler said. "It was the greatest feeling in the world. I was really surprised."

She might have been the only one. Before reaching state in three events as a senior, Wheeler qualified for the championships in four during her sophomore and junior seasons, when Lecanto was in 2A. She was second in 2001 in the high jump and sixth in the triple jump. As a sophomore, Wheeler was third at state in the 300 hurdles.

"I catch onto things easily," Wheeler said earlier this year. "A lot of people are good at art and other things; everybody has their thing."

No question, track was Wheeler's thing. The Times All-Citrus/Hernando Athlete of the Year as a junior, she won the 100 hurdles in this spring's regionals, plus the high jump, long jump and 100 hurdles at district and conference.

"This season was fun," Wheeler said. "I did pretty well in all my meets, so I was happy. But I'm sad that it was my last year. But when I look back at all I did and all the medals I have, I can show my kids."

Wheeler hopes to someday compete in college. But first she will take a year off from school and join the national guard in November. Her boot camp is in South Carolina.

Wheeler will begin looking at colleges next year and has given thought to walking on at Central Florida.

"I think I'll miss track," she said.

Area fans will miss Wheeler.

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