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Relay win crucial for PHU girls

PCAC MEET: The Hurricanes defeat favorite Largo while the Packers boys end 15-year drought.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2003

CLEARWATER -- With its multitude of individual stars, Palm Harbor University coach John Planamenta figured his girls team had a chance to win the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title.

It came down to the last event -- the 4x400-meter relay -- before Planamenta's assumption proved to be correct.

Beth McCubbin grabbed the lead just after the first turn of the second leg and her teammates held on as Palm Harbor U. pulled off the come-from-behind win to capture its first conference title.

The Hurricanes scored 101 points, outdistancing Largo (98) and two-time defending champion Seminole (91 1/2).

Latecia Hardy was the biggest scorer for the Hurricanes, winning three events and finishing second in another. The senior won the 300 hurdles, the pole vault and ran the third leg of the 4x400 relay. She also was runner-up in the 100 hurdles.

Other winners for PHU were Courtney LaCroix in the high jump and Kerrie Savery in the 800.

"We had some strong individuals that would get us a lot of points," Planamenta said. "But we also got some little points that came with seventh and eight-place finishes that went a long way. We knew it could be close and come to the end. I told the girls at the end we really needed to run that (4x400) race."

The Packers, who were fourth in the 4x400, went into the relay holding a three-point lead. That meant PHU needed to finish at least two spots ahead in order to win the meet.

Largo, which won the Osceola Relays, the Lady Tornado Invitational and the West Coast Invitational by huge margins this season, was hurt by the absence of Ryann Matthews.

Matthews participated in the field events but had to bow out of the 100 and 300 hurdles and her leg in the 4x400 relay because she had a prior commitment Thursday night.

"Not having her for those events was big," Packers coach Mike Beck said. "That's 14 points we could have scored right there."

The Largo boys made up for the misfortune of the girls team by winning their first conference title since 1988. The Packers scored 104 points to edge the host Tornadoes (97).

"This was just so big for us," Largo coach John Demko said. "We knew we were the best team and if we lost this meet, it would have ruined our season."

Although the Packers had just two winners (Jose McLao in the 300 hurdles and the 4x800 relay team), they were able to win thanks to their depth.

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