By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001
Even though Thursday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet will be the last county meet for retiring East Lake coach Dave Derrick, he said he has not given the occasion much thought. "When you've been at it this long, it just seems like any other one," Derrick said.
His career has lasted 36 years in the high school and college ranks. Derrick said he never thought about quitting but always had told himself he would retire at age 62.
So now is the time.
"I've had a lot of fun with the athletes, and it's gone by so fast," Derrick said.
He started coaching high school track in Cincinnati in the mid-60s. He moved to Northeast in 1970 and stayed 10 years before going to William and Mary. After six years of coaching college, Derrick moved back to Pinellas County, coaching at Tarpon Springs in 1987 before coming to East Lake to start the program.
In that time, he has been on the Olympic Committee and had four compete at the Olympic Trials in 1984.
All of this for someone who never ran track.
"I was a baseball player," Derrick said. "I was given a job as a track coach, and I stuck with it. I worked at it and learned and used the the kids as guinea pigs. Over the years, you develop a bond with the athletes. I think I've built a pretty good program here (at East Lake), and whoever takes over is going to walk into a nice situation."
ON THE ROAD: One week after winning the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Seminole Rotary and beating Tara Lynn of St. Paul Episcopal (Ga.) by one-tenth of a second to win the 3,200 at the Florida Relays, Christa Benton gets her biggest test.
The Keswick Christian senior travels to Mobile, Ala., for the Mobile Meet of Champions Friday and Saturday. The meet features the top high school athletes in the Southeast.
FLORIDA RELAYS RECAP: Lakewood's relays had the strongest showing among the county contingent at the Florida Relays. The Spartans 4x100 team finished third, and the 4x400 team finished sixth. In addition, senior Sharneka Brown took sixth in the 100.
Tarpon Springs' Marnisha Hardy took fifth in the 100, and Northside Christian's Katie Aucremann took fourth in the discus.
DISNEY RELAYS RECAP: While most teams competed at the Florida Relays, Seminole, Boca Ciega and Clearwater took a different path, competing at the Disney Showcase. Clearwater's Latecia Hardy was sixth in the 400 hurdles and third in the pole vault. Seminole's Devon Rich took third in the 100 and fourth in the 200. For Rich, it was the first time competing in both events since pulling her hamstring a month ago.