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Sickness can't slow Pirate

Holly Van Sicklen fights off an ear and sinus inflection to win a region title. Lecanto tops the girls team race.

DAWN REISS
Published October 31, 2004

LECANTO - Despite having an ear and sinus inflection, Crystal River's Holly Van Sicklen persevered Saturday and won her first individual region championship and a spot at state at Lecanto High School.

Van Sicklen passed county rival Taylor Cooke of Lecanto half a mile into the course and trailed behind Orlando Bishop Moore's Natalie Saltmarsh until the last three-quarters of a mile at the Class 2A, Region 2 meet. As Cooke, who has the fastest girls time in Citrus county, took second, Van Sicklen secured victory with a late kick for an 11 second lead. She finished in 20 minutes, 19 seconds.

"Holly just dominated today," Lecanto girls coach Dan Epstein said.

Raspy voiced and struggling to walk, Van Sicklen beamed in the wake of her accomplishment. Sweaty and trying to cool down, her younger brother, Nick, gave his cross country racing shirt to her and took Van Sicklen's for his race.

"It's sweaty, but not too bad," Nick Van Sicklen joked. "It's the winning shirt, it'll bring me good luck."

"This is a dream come true," said Holly Van Sicklen, a junior who finished fourth at last year's regional. "I just can't believe it."

The Lecanto girls won the team championship, with 36 points to Orlando Bishop Moore's 53. Lecanto had five runners - Cooke, Tara Haddock, Amy Rundio, Kelly King and Jillian Swartz - in the top 13.

"We didn't expect to come in here and do what we did to Bishop Moore, who won last year's regional," said Epstein, whose goal is a top-five state finish. "I told my girls from the beginning if you run cross country races as a pack you can win. This year we have a pack. When they are that close together you can do nothing but win."

Bartow (116) was third, followed by Harmony (132), Crystal River (142) and Keystone Heights (168). All qualified for the state meet, Nov. 6 in Tampa.

In the boys race, Interlachen's Jeremy Criscione set a course record in 15:24, breaking his mark of 15:49 set last year at the Lecanto Invitational. Lakeland Kathleen's Scott Macklay was second in 15:30.

Bishop Moore won with 69 points, followed by fellow state qualifiers Atlantic (82), Lecanto (98), Celebration (123), Kathleen (150) and Citrus (151). Crystal River (166) was seventh.

Lecanto's Nick Norton, in fifth, was the top local finisher. He set a personal record of 16:48.

"We didn't have an exceptional day but we ran well," Lecanto boys coach Bruce Sheffield said. "We knew all along we were having a lot of trouble competing with the private schools. We are working to be the top public school in the state."

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