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Seniors reclaim crowns

Jeff Masterson and Stephanie Amerman repeat their efforts of two years ago at SAC meet.

BOB PUTNAM
Published October 15, 2004

SHADY HILLS - The Sunshine Athletic Conference meet was the perfect chance for Wesley Chapel's Stephanie Amerman and Mitchell's Jeff Masterson to redeem themselves.

Two years ago, Amerman and Masterson, then sophomores, outdid their elders by winning conference titles. Based on those performances, they entered last year's meet as the favorites, only to falter down the stretch. Amerman finished second. Masterson was third.

On Thursday, they returned to reclaim those titles.

Amerman and Masterson made up for last year's sub-par performances in the final conference race of their high school careers at Crews Lake Park.

Amerman won in 20 minutes, 16 seconds to beat Gulf's Danielle Florey by 37 seconds.

"I'm pleased to be able to win again," Amerman said.

Gulf's Nichole Berkey sprinted to the early lead. Amerman was glued to her before making a move at the first mile.

"We started way too fast," Amerman said. "That first mile was 20 seconds faster than it should have been. Nichole went out real quick and then she kind of died after that."

Amerman held off Berkey and Florey the rest of the race.

About the only thing Amerman was not pleased with was her time. Though she recorded her season-best, Amerman did not run under 20 minutes, something she did consistently last season.

"I want to lower my time, but I don't think I could have run any faster (Thursday)," said Amerman, who ran a personal-best 19:12 last season.

"I'm nowhere near my time last year, but I still have three weeks to go."

Florey and Berkey (21:33) helped the Buccaneers win their fifth straight conference title. Gulf had seven runners in the top 30.

In the boys race, Masterson held off a challenge from his closest county rival, Land O'Lakes' Steven Bell, to win in 15:53.

Masterson and teammates John Tuccio (fourth) and Jeff Surmin (fifth) came up big as the Mustangs won their fourth straight team title.

"It feels good to be back on top and in control," Masterson said.

Last year, Wesley Chapel's Kurt Able and Bell finished ahead of Masterson, who still was coming to grips with the death of his father the week before.

Masterson has since rebounded and entered Thursday's race more determined.

He dictated the pace by bursting out of the pack, never relinquishing his lead. Bell (16:01) and Zephyrhills' Jose Espinoza (16:38) were right behind as they battled for second.

"Last season was just so difficult," Masterson said. "The conference meet came right after my dad died and everything started to sink in at that point.

"So this was a race where I wanted to come back and do well to prove myself."

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