Seminole siblings steal the spotlight

RUNNERS OF THE YEAR: Heather Nicolosi catches up to older brother Tony, and the two rule county competition.

Published December 14, 2005

SEMINOLE - Come run in Tony Nicolosi's shadow.

The Seminole senior's image couldn't loom any larger this season. He was captain of the county's most dominant cross country team and often led a brigade of Warhawks at the finish line.

Heather Nicolosi knows all about running in Tony's shadow. That's the way life is when you're a cross country-running younger sister who shares the last name of one of the county's best athletes.

Tony was the prodigy. He always seemed to have a direction in his sport, to know know where the road ahead would curve. Heather turned out to be the prodigal sister, her road map not as clearly marked as Tony's.

This season things changed.

Heather made a name for herself with several strong performances. She started the season by beating her longtime nemesis, Kerry Allen of St. Petersburg, in one meet. Heather finished with the best time of any county girl (18:35) and placed fifth at state.

Tony was pretty strong, too. He won individual titles at the conference and district meets and was the pacesetter for a Seminole squad that finished second at state.

"It was a great season because we were both able to do so well," Tony said.

Tony knew this was coming. He first predicted his sister was destined for something grand when he saw how much she worked this summer.

Heather ran hard - and fast - to make up for lost time.

Stress fractures in her right foot and leg the past two years hampered her performance. It showed as Heather often would hang with the pack before her stride gradually turned into a labored limp.

She finished fifth at last year's Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet and her top time (20:30) ranked 10th in the county.

Healthy for the first time, Heather treated the summer like a boot camp. She pushed herself with intense workouts that included cross-training sessions.

"When you're hurt like Heather was, and you're passionate, it's tough to keep going," Tony said. "But she couldn't give up. She needed someone there to help her get through that."

That's where Tony stepped in. Then again, Tony always does that. Besides being the No. 1 runner on the county's No. 1 team, Tony was the model captain who embraced coach Bruce Calhoun's team-first philosophy.

"He always been there for me to help me get better," said Heather, a junior.

Well, not always.

Four years ago they were in opposite worlds. Tony just started high school. Heather was still in middle school. They had different friends, different hobbies.

About the only thing they could agree on was disagreeing. "We probably didn't get along as well as we could have," Tony said.

That changed when Tony started running cross country. Heather went to his meets and decided she wanted to join the program the following year.

"Now, we're real close," Heather said. "We're both in yearbook, have the same friends. I even run with all the guys during practice.

"I'd say things worked out pretty well."