tampabay.com

Lecanto meet swells in size

By DAWN REISS
Published September 14, 2006


It's a big week for Citrus County cross country. Lecanto hosts its annual invitational, kicking off the second week of racing.

This year should be bigger than ever with about 700 athletes and more than 30 teams.

And, as Lecanto boys cross country coach Bruce Sheffield joked, "because (Lecanto girls cross country coach) Dan (Epstein) let too many teams in. He just can't turn anybody away."

"But we'd rather have it like this," Sheffield added.

Top teams like Class 4A powerhouses Sickles and Buchholtz will be at the meet, along with always tough Hernando, which has dominated the boys division under coach Ernie Chatman.

Though the Pirates are the team to beat in Citrus County, Crystal River will be noticeably absent.

The girls won't race this meet and only Crystal River senior Joe Greer and some male JV athletes will run on their own because of the Pirates' Homecoming the night before.

Both squads finished fourth out of 18 teams Sept. 9 at the Land O'Lakes Gator Invitational.

LOOKING GOOD: Greer was the top Citrus County finisher in 17 minutes, 13 seconds, which put him in the top five.

"He's not a great sprinter," Crystal River coach Tim Byrne said. "But he can tolerate a more intensive pace during the entire race."

Blair Beeler (13th), Brennan McNally (14th) and Eric Hughes (18th) helped the boys finish behind Sickles, Jesuit and Hernando.

GETTING RANKED: Crystal River's girls cracked the top 10 in this week's flrunners.com coaches poll at No. 9. The Pirates are led by junior Danielle Dixon and sophomore Kristen Hall. That duo plus, senior Lori Carter, junior Sasha Jaquith and sophomore Melissa Schmidt round out the top five.

Dixon was the top Citrus County female finisher at the Land O'Lakes meet in 22:11. She finished 11th overall, with Hall coming in two seconds behind her.

"I've learned to not do a race the day after Homecoming," Crystal River coach Lisa Carter joked.

"They just stay up way too late. They had the option to do the race, but decided not to." Instead, the Pirates will have a later practice on Saturday.

MISSING COOKE: The Lecanto girls will not have Taylor Cooke, who is out indefinitely with a hip abductor injury. "Taylor is one of those athletes who goes 110 percent, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Epstein said. "She's got to learn to rest."

Epstein isn't sure if Cooke will be back.

"She is going on to college and has to think of her future. She may have to focus on another sport, like swimming."

With Cooke out, senior Jillian Swartz, who is on the swim and cross country teams, takes over the No. 1 spot.

"She has this desire to succeed and nothing is going to get in her way," Epstein said.

The Panthers finished eighth at Land O'Lakes.

CITRUS TIME: The Citrus boys finished last at the Land O'Lakes meet. Eighteenth to be exact.

'Canes coach Chris Moling said he is not worried about scoring points, just gaining experience.

"We're using races as competitive practices for the guys," Moling said. "I'm not pushing for PRs (personal records) because I want them to turn it on when were in the thick of things and get a PR at districts this year."

Citrus is led by sophomore Brandon Hardy, sophomore David Zuckley and freshman Sam Wilburn. Freshman Mike Reynolds was cleared to practice this week, which means Saturday will be his first meet.

FULL FINISH: Nick Farrington led the Lecanto boys and finished 12th at Land O'Lakes in 17:54.

The key to his success: his finish.

"He never slacks off," Sheffield said. "He's got one of the better kicks I've seen."

Senior David Rundio (18:28) finished 30th. Junior Jon Junkins finished 21st in 18:14, followed by senior David Rundio (18:28, 30th). Freshman Justin Slbano (19:06, 44th) and junior Stephen Clark rounded out the top five.

CROSS COUNTRY

UP NEXT: Lecanto Invitational

WHO: 30-plus teams and 700 athletes from around the state

WHEN: Saturday

TIME: 8 a.m. Boys start five minutes after the last girl finishes, approximately 8:35. JV starts 9:10 a.m.

WHERE: Lecanto High