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Ridgewood ready to claim third title

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ridgewood has won Sunshine Athletic Conference titles in the first two years of the sport's existence, and if you ask around, the Rams appear in line to win another one.

"I think they're the team to beat," said River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro, whose roster includes the reigning Times Girls Weightlifter of the Year in Emily Meyer.

Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare and Land O'Lakes coach Vicky King agree it will take a tremendous effort to unseat the Rams. But Ridgewood hosts today's conference meet armed with more than two SAC titles. The Rams went 5-0-1 this season to extend their unbeaten record to 17-0-1.

"They're aware of it every meet," Ridgewood coach Kecia Starnes said of the streak. "They push for it."

Each of the county's nine schools will be represented today. Eight schools competed last year and six teams participated in the inaugural SAC meet in 1999.

"The growth is tremendous," Starnes said. "(Weightlifting) helps the girls. It builds their strength up for any other sport that they want to do."

Ridgewood's lineup boasts just one defending champion in Lauren Spina. But four returning Rams were runners-up last year and Starnes said all of them -- Emanda Doscher (a 1999 SAC champion), Jillian Kornick, Maria Pontera and Amanda Salvarezza -- are title contenders.

"It's depth," said Starnes, noting that the Rams have two girls entered in each of the 10 weight classes. "It's having the number of girls out there so you can get points."

River Ridge's Meyer, Land O'Lakes' Dana Kearney and Wesley Chapel's Ashley Martin are among the best lifters, but the Rams have an intangible on their side: winning when it counts the most.

"My girls will be out there doing everything they can to make sure they get a three-peat," Starnes said.

Added DeGennaro: "Their girls work pretty hard."

GIRLS CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

WHERE: Ridgewood gym

WHEN: Today. Weigh-ins begin at 2:30 p.m. Lifting begins at 4.

ADMISSION: $2

TEAMS: Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Pasco, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills

ONES TO WATCH: Land O'Lakes: Kara Garcia, Dana Kearney, Katelyn Wojciek; Ridgewood: Emanda Doscher, Lauren Spina, Amanda Salvarezza, Tracy Virga; River Ridge: Emily Meyer, Sara Cooper, Jessica Verga; Wesley Chapel: Ashley Martin, Jennifer Robinson, Leigh McIlwane.

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