Sportsperson of the year candidates
© St. Petersburg Times
It was a memorable year for county athletics -- from the Hernando High girls basketball team's trip to the state quarterfinals in February to the Springstead softball squad's first postseason victory in May to Hernando's football playoff appearance in November.
Numerous athletes and coaches made their marks along the way, but none left a more lasting impression than Hernando graduate and University of Florida women's basketball player Bernice Mosby.
Of Mosby, who led the Leopards to within a victory of their second state final four appearance in four years before going on to star for the Gators, former Hernando athletic director Rodney Byrd said: "She's in that top 2 percent I've seen come out of Hernando."
JOSE ALONZO, boxing: The Spring Hill super middleweight improved his professional record to 10-0 (six knockouts) and is scheduled to undertake his next fight early in 2003.
DEE BROWN, baseball: The former Hernando standout was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Rookie of the Year after leading Central Florida in hits (85), RBIs (56) and total bases (111) and finishing second in batting average (.397).
BILL BROWNING, football: The Hernando coach turned a 3-7 team into a playoff contender that put a scare into heavily-favored Wauchula Hardee in a region quarterfinal despite a litany of injuries.
ERNIE CHATMAN, cross country: The longtime coach led the Hernando boys team to Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and district titles and ninth in the state meet. He also made progress toward his hobby of running a marathon in every state.
LAURA DEWITT, triathlon: The Brooksville resident qualified for the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii, the sport's most prestigious event, but was unable to compete after being hit by a car while on a training ride in Ona.
TIM GAYNOR, football: The Central senior rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second straight season, earning All-Hernando/Citrus Player of the Year recognition.
LARRY MILLER, running: The 66-year-old Timber Pines resident won the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter run and 5-kilometer road race and placed fourth in the 200 of the Florida Senior Games State Championships, qualifying for the National Senior Games in each event.
JAY OLSEN, bowling: The Spring Hill resident blew away the county record for three-game series with an 855 on Oct. 3 at Spring Hill Lanes. He eclipsed Kevin Williams' previous mark by 19 pins, capping the series with a 300 performance.
CARMINE RUFA, softball: As Springstead's coach, he led the Eagles to a school record for victories, their first district title and first playoff win before losing to eventual state champion Green Cove Springs Clay in a region semifinal. He topped off the year by accepting a job as assistant principal.
RANDY STRAT, girls soccer: Despite losing nine seniors to graduation and starting just one senior, the Springstead coach guided his fourth-seeded squad to a four-overtime victory against Central and upsets of top-seeded Ridgewood and No. 2 Leesburg in the Class 3A, District 7 Tournament.
DIANNE WALDRON, horse racing: The Brooksville insurance broker again led the nation in earnings among owners of Arabian horses and continues to rank among the elite breeders.
-- Compiled by Frank Pastor and Brant James.
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2002: The Year in Review