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Knights' Justus wins region diving

Published October 31, 2004

GAINESVILLE - A knee injury kept Shelby Justus off the 1-meter springboard last season.

This year, the River Ridge diver is healthy and making quite a splash as a senior.

Justus is unbeaten and one win shy of a state championship. She won seven regular-season meets before capturing Sunshine Athletic Conference and Class 2A, District 5 titles.

Justus added another postseason crown Saturday at Florida's Stephen O'Connell Center. As the lone top regional qualifier among north Suncoast swimmers and divers, Justus advanced to next week's state meet as the area's only 2A, Region 2 champion.

"I thought (Justus) was done completely after last year," said Jerry Mancuso, who trains River Ridge and Gulf divers at the New Port Richey pool. "I'm glad she's back."

Justus is the only north Suncoast competitor to clinch a state berth, but more are likely since the top six in each event are eligible to advance to state at the O'Connell Center. The regional round was added this summer and narrows the state field for each event from 40 to 16.

"I like it because there's not as many people, so it's not as crowded," Central's Rae-lynn Sheffield said of the regional.

Sheffield, second in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 200 individual medley, is virtually assured of an at-large bid to state.

"I knew this was going to be tough, so I tapered a little bit early so I could go faster," said Sheffield, who dropped nearly three seconds off her 200 IM time at districts to finish at 2:15.22 on Saturday.

Ridgewood's Joy Taylor, a three-time state qualifier who placed third in the 500 freestyle, and a half dozen Land O'Lakes boys, who either finished among the top three individually or on relay teams, also are expected to qualify for state.

The Land O'Lakes boys tied for third with Astronaut for the best team finish among north Suncoast squads. Hudson's boys were ninth and the Springstead girls and Central girls placed eighth and ninth, respectively.

Land O'Lakes' 200 medley and 200 free relay teams took third and its 400 free relay was fourth. Chris Obara, Adam Yanchunis, Tim Olson, Andrew Graziani, Kevin Hayes and Ben Schultz shared relay duties.

Individually, Olson took third in the 100 butterfly and 100 back; Yanchunis was third in the 100 free and fourth in the 50 free; and Obara fifth in the 100 fly.

Other area swimmers with shots at at-large bids: Hudson's Joey Deliberti (fourth in the 100 fly and 200 IM) and Craig Bialkoski (sixth in the 50 free); Springstead's Sarah Barry (fourth in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM); River Ridge's Matt Sutton (fifth in the 100 free) and Stephanie Green (fifth in the 100 free); Wesley Chapel's Kirk Harbaugh (fifth in 200 IM); and Citrus' Charles Osterhout (sixth in 100 breast).

Mitchell divers Alecia Pollina and Gregg Strange, and Land O'Lakes diver Dennis Diaz - all of whom cracked the top six - also might make it to state.

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