St. Petersburg junior Kerry Allen makes her return to competition today when she runs at the Largo Invitational at Taylor Park.
Allen, who burst onto the cross country scene in 2002 by winning the Largo Invitational then won again last year, says she has recovered from a stress fracture in her back that sidelined her for six months.
"I'm pretty nervous," Allen said. "But I'm glad to be competing again."
The two-time Times Pinellas County Runner of the Year last raced at the Class 4A state meet, where she finished second to Oviedo's Jenny Barringer. She was bothered by back pain all season, and was fitted with a brace at its conclusion, missing the track season.
After four months in a back brace, Allen was frustrated with her recovery and sought a second opinion. Over the summer, she switched to physical therapy, recovering by mid-June and running again.
She said she is not 100 percent yet but close.
"We're going to be focusing on time and strategy, and not really winning," Allen said, adding she was hoping for a sub-20 minute time.
If Allen does break 20 minutes, though, it will be more than enough to win.
"We don't know for a fact that Allen is healthy; she's not battle tested yet, so this could be interesting," Largo coach Mike Beck said. "But if she is healthy ... then no one will touch her."
Kotchman will not run this year. She suffered heat exhaustion last year after finishing second, and is running Thursday at the Keswick Invitational.
The boys field will be wide open. St. Petersburg's Tommy Nagy is the top returner, but there is no dominant runner.