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It runs in the family

Kyle Nugent, son of a teacher and a sheriff, is making big strides thanks to a little self-discipline.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002


SPRING HILL -- At school, he is "Mrs. Nugent's son," or "Ryan's younger brother." Most everywhere else, he goes by "Mr. Nugent's son." His name is Kyle, but he doesn't care how you refer to him.

"As long as you know me, I guess," he said.

That's life when your older brother is the former captain of the swim team, your mother teaches at your school and your father is the sheriff.

But things are changing for Kyle Nugent, who's beginning to make a name for himself.

The Springstead sophomore, who turns 16 today, is among the top up-and-coming runners on the Eagles' cross country team. Though he's far from contending for a regional, district or conference crown, few runners can match the strides Nugent has made the past year.

One season after taking up the sport, Nugent ran the Red Mule Labor Day 5K in 21 minutes, 44 seconds Aug. 31 at McKethan Lake Park. The performance topped his best 3-mile time of a year ago by almost eight minutes. He finished the Land O'Lakes Invitational in 21:41 the following week at Crews Lake Park, where the course measured about 600 feet short of 5 kilometers.

Nugent is only beginning to tap his potential.

"He just steadily is improving," Springstead coach Chuck Boldt said. "Next year, if he continues on that course and wants to put in the work, he can do whatever he wants. He can achieve anything he wants."

Success in cross country requires dedication and self-discipline, values Nugent learned at home.

His father, Richard, is the county sheriff. Nugent's mother, Wendy, teaches remedial FCAT at Springstead. From an early age, they taught Nugent and his brothers, Ryan, now 20, and Carey, 13, the value of hard work and academic achievement.

"Discipline is real important," Richard said. "Children look for it. They want it, and education's the No. 1 thing."

The Nugents entered Kyle and Casey in dual-enrollment courses at Pasco-Hernando Community College. They quiz them nightly about their homework. They talk periodically about their goals.

But it's not all work and no play. To make sure they stay well-rounded, the Nugents encouraged each of their children to choose a sport.

Kyle started in soccer, then switched to baseball before returning to soccer. He had good speed, so a middle school coach suggested Nugent try running. He found he preferred longer distances.

"I can think a lot when I run," Nugent said. "I think about my school day or what's going to be my school day."

He didn't have a cross country coach in ninth grade, so his mother ran with him. The two jogged around the block, which Nugent thought was pretty big at the time. Now, they get up at 5:30 to run 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) every other morning.

Nugent's running took an important turn when Boldt was named Springstead's coach before the season. Boldt, president of the Red Mule Running Club, singled out the athlete during last spring's track awards dinner.

"You've got the body and the determination, and I think I can make you into a good distance runner," Boldt said. The two worked tirelessly over the summer, running 5 miles a day and 7-9 on Saturdays. After putting in their miles, they concentrated on speed work.

Nugent's times improved immediately. His self-image grew, giving him the confidence to take on leadership roles in school, ROTC and Civil Air Patrol.

"I think this running has really got him more focused on everything," Nugent's father said.

Richard started running while attending the FBI National Academy, where it was part of the regimen. He runs at lunchtime and on weekends to burn off stress, and has a 5K each year to benefit local children's programs.

Nugent's mother trains regularly at the YMCA, and runs in the Sheriff's 5K. His older brother, a junior at West Point, runs as part of his training.

"It's just sort of a natural thing," Richard said.

According to Kyle, so is living with the sheriff. Though his friends think it is "cool," it's no big deal to Nugent or his family.

"That isn't an issue in our house; it really isn't," Richard said. "I try to be "Dad' first. It's a little harder now being sheriff because I have a lot more demands on my time, but we try to make time."

Richard works 60-70 hours a week, compared to the 40 he logged as chief of operations. Meetings tie him up during the week, and he has other commitments on the weekends. But he gets to Kyle's meets when he can, and sometimes drives his son to practice in an unmarked police car.

For Kyle, the novelty of watching the flashing lights and listening to the scanner wore off long ago.

"It doesn't matter," Nugent said. "It's just another car. I just listen to the radio like it's another car."

Other parts of his father's job are more difficult for Nugent. Such as the mornings he wakes to find his father gone, off to the scene of another murder or attempted suicide. During those times, Nugent prays that his father is doing his job well and is safe.

"You get used to it," Nugent said. "You just hope and pray to God he'll be okay."

There are benefits to having a sheriff for a father, especially at school.

"People, I guess, are scared of me or something," Nugent said. "The bullies don't pick on me." If anything, he might be more intimidated by his mother's job. After all, she has immediate access to his teachers.

"If teachers have any problems, they go tell my mom about me," Nugent said.

Richard and Wendy don't push their professions onto their children, who have developed interests of their own.

Ryan wants to go to combat diver school. Casey hopes to become a surgeon. Kyle wants to be a helicopter pilot. He has had an interest in helicopters since he was young, and he recently flew in a National Guard helicopter for the first time.

"If I had any doubts about wanting to be a pilot," Nugent said, "I don't have any now."

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