Wesley Chapel's Stephanie Amerman and Mitchell's Jeff Masterson capture individual titles.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 2002
WESLEY CHAPEL -- Pick a story line, any story line, from Saturday morning's Sunshine Athletic Conference meet. Where to begin?
How about with the most competitive girls race of the season, as six runners entered the meet with a chance to claim the crown. For a second year it went to a sophomore, Wesley Chapel's Stephanie Amerman, who surprised a field of upperclassmen to win her first title in 20 minutes, 43 seconds.
In fourth place a mile from the finish, Amerman passed Mitchell's Nicole Guercio and Land O'Lakes' Dani Shimer, then overcame the leader, defending conference champion Samantha Jacobsen of River Ridge, at the 21/2-mile mark to win by eight seconds.
"I was hurting," Amerman said. "But I wanted to win really bad. I was like, "I can do this.' They're all juniors, so it feels pretty good to beat all the (upperclassmen). I sprinted all the way to the end. I was like, "I better sprint or they're going to beat me."'
River Ridge's shot at unseating defending girls champion Gulf fell short by five points. Because of injuries and disciplinary measures, this was only the second time coach Bucs coach Dean Lofton had his entire team at a meet, and he knew it would be close.
Melissa Dattoli (21:20) finished fifth, Amber Shuhart sixth (21:25), Danielle Florey eighth (22:05), Christina Angellillo 14th (23:17), Lilly Gnadt 15th (23:31) and Tammy Roddenberg 17th (23:47) to score 43.
"Actually it's a little wider gap than I thought it would be," Lofton said. "I thought it would come down to one point.
"Literally, I had huge butterflies in my stomach. I thought I was going to throw up before this meet."
Shimer finished third (20:58) and Guercio fourth (21:17). River Ridge's Danielle Coyle was seventh (21:31), Angel Jacks was ninth (22:36) and Corissa DiMartino 11th (22:47) for the runner-up Knights.
The next best race was for second place in the boys event.
Wesley Chapel's David Forry was the runner-up, beating a strong field to come across the line in 16:41. Teammate Kurt Able was sixth in 17:35.
Of course, the boys championship was never in doubt.
Mitchell phenom Jeff Masterson easily defended the crown he won as a freshman last year, winning by 35 seconds with a time of 16:06.
He led a Mustangs squad that also defended its SAC title, scoring 29 points. Danny Sheehan was fourth (17:01), John Tuccio fifth (17:04), David Stricsek eighth (17:43) and Gus Luna 11th (17:49).
Mitchell coach Bill Napolitano, whose team is ranked No. 3 in Class 3A by flrunners.com, was pleased with the win, but hardly satisfied.
"We ran a good race, we won, but I felt we could have done better," Napolitano said. "I'm not disappointed, but I'm not ecstatic either. I felt we should have done better.
"I believe we're a much better team than we are today."
The Land O'Lakes boys enjoyed their best performance of the season, finishing runner-up for the fifth consecutive year and scoring 52 thanks to personal bests from five runners. Freshman Steven Bell had perhaps the most surprising race of the morning, running a personal-best 16:48, shaving 50 seconds off his previous best to finish third.
Other personal bests were run by Chris Renteria (10th, 17:47), Steven Lang (12th 17:50), Bryan Gibbs (14th, 17:54) and Chase Detari (15th, 17:55).