Lyons sets the pace
By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
INVERNESS -- Citrus senior Tony Lyons can best be described by one word -- dependable.
"He has been good since I first got him in the ninth grade and has continued to get better," Hurricanes coach Bruce Nelson said.
Lyons capped a spectacular high school cross country career last month by placing 11th in the Class 2A state meet in Tampa, 24 spots better than any other runner in Citrus and Hernando counties. He was sixth at state in 2001 and 11th as a sophomore.
Citrus had four top-10 state finishes with Lyons.
"He's got a good work ethic, does everything he's told, and every day at practice he set the standard by running faster than everybody," Nelson said.
Lyons was a regular-season force, then captured the District 3 title at Lecanto in 16 minutes, 6 seconds. "I ran pretty strong," Lyons said. "It was one of the better races I've run."
A week later, he was second to Wesley Chapel junior David Forry at the region meet. Lyons' 16:18 at state, though solid, wasn't among his best performances, and Nelson thinks his standout might have had tired legs. Nevertheless, Lyons was key in Citrus' strong finish there, a major improvement from district, in which the 'Canes were a disappointing third.
"We feel a little bad he didn't run better at state," Nelson said. "But he ran his heart out getting us to state and giving us leadership. He was just a tiny bit off, but certainly from the team standpoint he did everything we could have ever hoped for. He helped lead us to that eighth-place finish. It was an outstanding team accomplishment, and something that he made happen."
Why was Lyons so good? "He is just naturally so smooth," Nelson said. "His running form is absolute perfection. He likes to run, enjoys himself and does workouts hard. He doesn't cheat on anything."
Lyons consistently finished in the mid 16-minute range. No other county runner dipped below 17 minutes this fall. Lyons will run track for the Hurricanes in the spring, and would like to run cross country in college for Florida Southern, where his brother, Milton, and several friends compete.
"Next to (former state champion and current University of Florida runner Cory Presnick), he's the second best runner I've had," Nelson said.
All Citrus/Hernando Cross Country: Boys
MATT BAUM, SR., CITRUS: Tenth at district, 50th at state.
LOGAN EMERSON, JR., HERNANDO: Sixth at district, 13th at region, 48th at state.
MIKE LAIRD, JR., HERNANDO: Third at GCAC, fourth at district, 35th at state.
KURT LEE, SR., CENTRAL: Second at GCAC, 14th at region, 48th at state.
TONY LYONS, SR., CITRUS: GCAC and district champ, second at region, 11th at state.
JUSTIN MACDONALD, SR., CITRUS: 17th at region, 65th at state.
RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Tony Lyons.
COACHES OF THE YEAR: Bruce Nelson, Citrus; and Ernie Chatman, Hernando. Nelson led Hurricanes to eighth straight state meet, in which they finished an area-best eighth in 2A. Chatman took Leopards to GCAC and district titles and a ninth-place showing at state.
-- Compiled by Frank Pastor and Keith Niebuhr.
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