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Plant teams pull off sweep

GIRLS: The Panthers win by 14 points and place five runners in the top 25 for pace elite division.

By ANTHONY GAGLIANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2002


GIRLS: The Panthers win by 14 points and place five runners in the top 25 for pace elite division.

TAMPA -- Laura Bowerman and Jessica Forrester were neck-and-neck entering the final half-mile of the elite 5K run at the USF/Jesuit Cross Country Invitational on Saturday.

But Bowerman, a King junior, had the stronger finishing kick and edged the Bloomingdale freshman by almost four seconds to win in 19 minutes, 30.84 seconds.

Gaither's Amanda Quick, another freshman, finished third in 19:48.55.

"The new freshmen that are coming in are awesome runners -- Amanda Quick at Gaither and Jessica Forrester from Bloomingdale and then Melissa Kotchman at Indian Rocks Christian," Bowerman said.

Bowerman and Forrester would have posted better times, but they veered off course at one point. Rounding the 11/2-mile mark, the leaders made a right through an open fence coming up a hill when they were supposed to go left across the field. As a sophomore last year, Bowerman finished fourth at the Class 3A state cross-country meet. "That took both their times up by 15 to 20 seconds at least," King coach David Outlaw said of their detour.

Headed by Paige Redfield's sixth-place finish, Plant placed all five of its qualifiers in the top 25. Defending state champion Mallory Giordano finished 14th as the Panthers brought home a comfortable 14-point victory, outdistancing Largo, which placed Deanna Drugash and Layla Hau in the top 10.

In the 5K open run, Clearwater Central Catholic junior Apryl Wall overtook Shorecrest's Brittany Whitelock in the final 200 meters to take the crown.

"I had more energy at the end because I didn't go as fast the first mile," Wall said.

"I always have a sprint at the end, but this time I had a really good push, especially because she was so close to me.

Whitelock held a steady advantage, but tired in the closing moments as Wall kept up the pace and raced the final 200 meters before collapsing in victory.

"I was focusing on keeping the same pace throughout the whole race," Wall said. "I just wanted to keep going faster and faster. You have to always pick up your speed. That's what I did.

"The finish of the race is my favorite part, and I sprinted to the end."

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