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Sophomore newcomer is setting Pirates' pace

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 24, 2002

Clayton Bristol is the other surprise at Crystal River this fall.

While the girls have been sparked by ninth-grader Holly Van Sicklen, Bristol, a sophomore not on the team in 2001, has been the boys top performer.

Bristol placed second to Citrus standout Tony Lyons in last week's county meet at Crystal River High by finising in 18 minutes, 4 seconds. Bristol ran track (800 and 1,600 meters) for the Pirates in the spring, but had to be persuaded by coach Tim Byrne to run cross country.

"Cross country is all guts and no glory," Byrne said. "That's the way it is. You don't get any praise, and it's all self-motivation.

"You're asking a kid to come out and basically puke and come back and do it again the next week. It's not an appealing sport to a lot of kids."

Bristol is making the most of the experience. He has consistently clocked in at the 17:50 range, and Byrne thinks Bristol has the potential to become an area force -- if he stays committed.

"He's a competitor," Byrne said. "But he still has a long way to go. I want to see him continue doing what he's doing.

"By no means is he where he needs to be if he wants to be one of the tops. But absolutely, he's a good one."

Bristol has the attention of another area coach.

"He's real smooth and real steady," Citrus' Bruce Nelson said. "It's kind of surprising how good he is.

"It's good for the county to be more competitive, and I'm happy to see (Crystal River) develop good runners. Now that they've got Byrne as coach, I expect more of that. He'll get good people out there and develop them."

Look for Bristol to go low this weekend. Saturday's Hernando Invitational is at McKethan Lake Park, traditionally the fastest course around.

* * *

HE'S BACK: After missing two weeks because of surgery to remove a painful growth on his knee, Citrus senior Matt Baum is nearing his form of old.

On one day's practice, he placed fifth in the county meet (18:47). Nelson expects his No. 2 runner to quickly improve and stay close to Lyons, the team's top performer.

"He lost a little in conditioning, but he's pretty much back to normal now," Nelson said of Baum. "In another week, he should be back to where he wants to be."

Baum lost some mobility because of swelling around the knee after surgery but is getting better every day, Nelson said.

A TOUGH ONE: The Crystal River course was difficult.

In fact, some coaches guessed that times were a minute slower than on most area courses.

"It was a super workout," Nelson said.

"I thought it was a wonderful course. The tougher the course the better. The best way to get better is by running tougher courses."

-- Coaches are to report results to 800-333-7505, ext. 8123.

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