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Howard returns to defend title

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 6, 2002


INVERNESS -- When former Lecanto standout Amanda Howard showed up at Saturday's Beat the Sheriff 5K, it delighted many of her former high school teammates.

INVERNESS -- When former Lecanto standout Amanda Howard showed up at Saturday's Beat the Sheriff 5K, it delighted many of her former high school teammates.

It also hurt their chances of winning.

For the second year in a row, Howard, a redshirt freshman runner at Florida International, claimed the event, this time in 20 minutes. Lecanto juniors Deirdra Witherspoon (20:18) and Nicole Mailloux (20:38) were second and third, respectively.

Dunnellon's Danny Stevens was the overall winner in 18:01.

"I had a great time," Howard said. "That's my fastest time of the season. I really wanted to come home and see my teammates and run with them again."

Howard, the 2001 Times All-Citrus/Hernando Runner of the Year, drove 41/2 hours to run the event, which began and ended at the old Inverness Courthouse and wound through local neighborhoods. She started in the middle of the pack, but soon moved into the lead. "I knew she'd eventually pass me," Witherspoon said. "So I told her to call my name out when she did so I could keep up with her. She pushed me the entire race. I got my best time of the season thanks to her."

Howard and Witherspoon ran neck and neck until Howard took the lead for good at the 21/2-mile mark.

"I just kept the same pace the whole time," Howard said.

Stevens, 49, a regular triathlon competitor, moved to the front of the pack after about 2 miles. Lecanto sophomore Wayne Saxer (18:09), who placed second, challenged down the stretch, but Stevens pulled away in the final 1/4-mile.

"We stayed together for a while," Stevens said. "We duked it out. I thought I ran well. A couple of the Lecanto High cross-country guys were running well. I just tried to keep pace with them and then see what happened."

Randy Forde (18:17) of Ocala, Charlie Blaisdell (18:24) of Hernando and Nick Norton (18:32) of Lecanto completed the top five.

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