There could be a shakeup as new runners, and perhaps teams, emerge.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published September 1, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - There is no Ken Magee. Or Kevin Lyons. Or John Biffar.
There is no dominant runner, no surefire frontrunner, no future state champion.
There is only this: a chance.
"There's a lot of people that are going to have a chance to win a meet this year," East Lake boys coach Paul Warnish said.
As the boys cross country season begins today with the Largo Invitational at Taylor Park, what is known is in far less supply than what is not. Before thinking this season has the potential to be a blight on the steep history of county cross country, or writing it off for lack of a state contender, think about this:
It should be fun.
St. Petersburg senior Tommy Nagy, who was third at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet last year, is as close to a favorite as there is heading into the 2004 season.
But until he proves it, there are few willing to concede first place as was the case the past few years with Magee, Lyons and Biffar cruising local courses.
"It adds more excitement not having a frontrunner," Palm Harbor University coach Darryl Southard said. "There will be a lot more teams pushing for the conference championship. Before going into it last year, you knew Ken Magee was going to win the race. You already had the mind-set that hopefully you can get second. But not this year.
"I had a runner come up to me at practice and wanted to know who he should be looking for, who's out there, what strive for. I had to tell him, "I don't know.' "
Some things, though, never change. All eyes will be on the Seminole boys, who even with the loss of Magee return the rest of a team that made it to state and ran under 18 minutes.
Junior Tony Nicolosi, 53rd at state last season, is expected to inherit Magee's No. 1 spot on the team, leading a crew that consists of senior Eric Cobelens (78th at state), Anthony Buccellato and others.
To return to state and stay atop the heap, the Warhawks will have to fight off a number of challengers.
Lakewood was rebuilt last year as coach Royston Dillon took a young group to a surprisingly strong season. After taking the city title, the Spartans set their sights on Seminole and Largo for 2004.
As for Largo, Koehler is still piecing a team together but likes what he sees. Philip Brookins and Shawn Berry are back, and if Chris Ford, who missed last season, can regain his 2002 form, the Packers can challenge.
Warnish likes his young squad, Southard thinks his team will sneak up on some, and other coaches have even mentioned Northeast after a strong track season.
"I don't really know how the rest of the guys are doing," Warnish said. "But it's an interesting race to start the season. It will set up what everyone has.
It sets the bar for the season. After today, the young athletes will something to shoot for."