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No spring break for Panthers' athletes

By KELLIE DIXON
Published March 22, 2007


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LECANTO - The parking lot was practically vacant at Lecanto on Wednesday. A reminder - not that anybody needed one - that this week is spring break.

A week of escape from classes and homework. A week of not fighting with the alarm clock.

Unless you're a member of the Lecanto girls track team.

The Panthers might not have had to worry about courses or homework, either. But unlike their classmates, spring break isn't a chance to rest. It's a chance to compete - even at 9:30 a.m., which was the case Wednesday.

"It's a good way to stay in shape over spring break," said senior Shaneatha Gates, who holds school records in the discus and shot put.

Every spring break, the Panthers meet at the school track for their intrasquad "Turkey" meet. Coach Freddie Bullock came up with the event many years ago because she wanted to give the Panthers something to do during the break without having the hassle of travel.

"We were trying to do something over spring break to where the kids could get competition," Bullock said.

Kylene Colasanti, a former Lecanto track star, gave the meet its name a few years ago. When Bullock told the athletes to bring a light and dark-colored jersey, Colasanti chimed in with, "Light and dark. Just like a turkey," Bullock said.

Once the sleep was rubbed out of their eyes and the final yawns released on Wednesday, the girls were ready.

Almost half of the 53-member team had shown up and Bullock divided the athletes into squads. She primarily focused on separating the field athletes. Each squad then decided within itself who would compete in which events. Field athletes got a taste of running, while runners experienced shot put, triple jump and high jump.

The athletes laughed and joked in between contests, but the meet was anything but a glorified practice. The competitive juices were flowing.

"We love it," said senior Kelly Butler, who competes in the pole vault and the high jump. "For the love of getting to be able to do a meet. ... It really makes you focus on competing against yourself. That's the goal of track, to compete against yourself."

And the athletes weren't taking it easy on each other, either. Gates, a three-time state qualifier, just smiled at the thought. To her, taking it easy in practice is an invitation to fail later on.

"I think I compete to the fullest all the time," Gates said. "I compete my hardest against them. It makes them compete as hard as they can."

The hard work is obvious when the Panthers reach the district meet. For the last three years, the Panthers have been runnersup in their district. This year, Lecanto's strengths are in the shot put, discus, triple jump, pole vault and 300-meter hurdles.

Butler added that the team is even stronger this season because of the bond between the athletes.

"Everyone cheers for everyone," Butler said. "Everyone wants everyone to do well."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.

Schedule

This week is spring break for Citrus County schools, so here's a schedule of the teams that are playing.

BASEBALL

Today

- Citrus at Tavares, 7 p.m.

- Crystal River at Hernando, 7 p.m.

- Lecanto at Central, 6:30 p.m.

No games this week: Seven Rivers

SOFTBALL

Today

- Ridgewood at Citrus, 6 p.m.

Friday

- Pine Forest at Citrus, 6 p.m.

- Crystal River at Keystone tournament, in Santa Fe

No games: Lecanto Seven Rivers

[Last modified March 21, 2007, 20:05:25]


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