© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003
GAINESVILLE -- It did not matter that her throat was sore and her nose was stopped up. Wharton pole vaulter Natalie Moser handled Saturday's Class 4A Florida Relays without letting her illness get in the way.
"You'll have to excuse me," Moser said. "I'm still getting over the flu."
Moser needed no excuses.
The junior cleared 11 feet, 6 inches for the first time this season, which was high enough to take first place on the final day of the event at the University of Florida.
Joined by the top competition in the state, including Riverview's Megan Malone, Moser was up against two of the top three finishers in last year's state championships. And while she finished fourth in that competition a year ago, Moser topped Malone and Southlake's CC Ray on Saturday to take over as the state's front-runner.
"I've been sick for a while," Moser said. "But I felt like I was really getting pumped up today because I didn't want to get my sickness in the way."
Moser wasn't the only Wildcat to do well. Sprinter Jovon Mitchell finished fourth in the 100 meters in 10.97 seconds. Coral Springs' Walter Dix won the event in 10.47, the fastest time in the state this season.
In the 2-mile boys invitational, though, the final result for Jesuit's Andy Biladeau wasn't as good as he would have liked. Scratched and bruised from Friday when an unusually large pack of competitors in the mile run had falls in three attempted starts, Biladeau finished fifth Saturday despite a No. 1 seeding.
"There's no excuse for the time I ran," said Biladeau, who finished in 9:40.53. "I ran pretty hard last night, but that's still no excuse. I was just feeling mentally and physically tired. I got through the first mile and my body shut down. I was running as hard as I could and it still wasn't enough."
For King standout Laura Bowerman, a time of 5:08.07 was fast enough for third place in the 1-mile girls invitational. Competing in the distance for only the third time this season, Bowerman said her time could have been improved with a better finish.
"I didn't run well for the final lap," said Bowerman, the defending 3A state champion in cross country. "I haven't raced much in the mile, so I'm still trying to get a feel for where I should be running."
Gaither's girls distance medley led for much of its race but slipped to third on the final leg. Kate Truesdale, who ran the third leg for the Cowboys, finished with a personal best as the relay team ran the event in 13:18.72.
"We're going up against the best in the state, so everyone has to be at their best," Truesdale said. "That doesn't always happen, but when everybody has a good day at the same time, we definitely have a chance to win."