Hernando shines in relay

Ben Martucci gives the 4x800-meter relay team a boost to finish second.

Published April 29, 2007

WINTER PARK - Ben Martucci's lasting memory of the Class 2A 1, 600-meter run will inevitably be Joseph Franklin growing smaller in the distance.

The Hernando senior entered the race hoping to challenge for at least second or third - but Franklin, a Tallahassee Godby star, sucked much of the wind out of the race by dusting the rest of the pack en route to a state record time of 4 minutes, 8.84 seconds.

"Overall, that killed all of our motivation, " Martucci said of Franklin's massive lead throughout the race. "To have him way out front, it was almost impossible to accomplish."

Nonetheless, it was an impressive day for Martucci, who medaled in three events, including a record-setting 4x800-meter relay performance, in which Hernando nabbed second place.

On the girls side, Hernando junior Gina Potito placed fourth in the high jump 5 feet, 4 inches, and Nature Coast senior Lauren Szudarek placed 15th in the discus (95-4).

Perhaps most impressive, though, was Danielle Doucet's sixth-place finish in the 400 meters (59.00). Doucet is only a freshman at Nature Coast (she did not qualify for the finals in either the 100 meters or the 200 meters), and experienced state competition for the first time.

"(The atmosphere) feels a lot different, " Doucet said. "There are a lot of fast runners out here."

On the boys side, Pasco junior Demetrous Larry placed sixth in the high jump (6-4), which was won by Crystal River junior Ronnie Baldner, who cleared 6-10 for the first time.

Zephyrhills senior Sederrik Cunningham did not qualify for the finals in either the 100 or the 200, running 10.93 and 22.15, respectively.

Hernando's performance in the 4x800 relay was the highlight of the day. After running fourth for most of the race (Drew Martucci, Chris Martin and Joe Wright ran the first three legs), Ben Martucci ran a 1:57 anchor leg to climb to second. The Leopards' time of 8:04.40 eclipsed the previous school record of 8:05.

"We had no idea we were going to run that fast, " said Drew Martucci.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407.