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Preps

Lecanto has strong showing

The Panthers girls finish second behind Gainesville Buchholz at Lecanto Invitational.

By RICHARD BURTON
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

LECANTO - Lecanto girls cross country coach Dan Epstein was all smiles Saturday at the Lecanto Invitational after his Panthers placed second behind state power Gainesville Buchholz.

"I feel real good about what we did, because Buchholz is such an awesome team," Epstein said. "They had five of the top eight runners and you can't compete with that, but I was pleased with our girls and this effort really shows well for us down the road."

Buchholz finished with 21 points, 45 better than the Panthers, who had four runners in the top 20. Freshman Taylor Cooke was Lecanto's top finisher, taking third in 20 minutes, 27 seconds. She was 49 seconds behind champion Crystal Miner of Buchholz.

Cooke was near the head of the pack the entire race.

She was in fourth early, passed a runner at the hill on the first mile and stayed in third the rest of the way. The transfer from Seven Rivers Christian was pleased with her finish and the fact that she stayed with Buchholz's top runners.

"They really had a bunch of good ones, but I really like facing people like that," Cooke said. "Last year at state (in track), I got to face runners like that and it really helped me out. ... I think it was a big advantage running here. I like everything about it. You know where all the holes and things like that are, so that made a difference."

Cooke's teammate, Deirdra Witherspoon, finished seventh in 21:10.

"My goal was to stay with the girls at the top of the pack," said Witherspoon, who has had the flu. "There were some tough girls, but I was able to do it." Crystal River's Holly Van Sicklen took fifth (20:51), helping the Pirates finish third.

"For my first race I thought my time was good and way better than last year," she said. "It was a fast course, and everything about today was good. This is a tough course, but it is one of my favorites."

Central's Magen Loew also made an impact. At the 2-mile mark, Gainesville P.K. Yonge's Katie David suffered an asthma attack, and Loew carried her for a distance and retrieved her inhaler, which helped stop the attack. "It was a real scary thing," Loew said.

On the boys' side, Buchholz was first with five of the top eight, but it was Interlachen's Jeremy Criscione who earned the individual title with a course record 15:49. Lecanto had the area's highest finish (fourth), and Nick Norton paced the Panthers with a 10th-place finish while teammate Dustin Elder was one spot behind him.

Hernando's boys took fifth, Crystal River seventh and Citrus eighth.

"It was our first meet and we didn't run as well as I thought we could," Pirates coach Tim Byrne said.


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