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Royal Knight boys stun Rams

River Ridge ends Ridgewood's run of four consecutive SAC titles.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- For one hour at Thursday's Sunshine Athletic Conference meet, times and distances weren't as important as this: Did you take a slide across the pole vault pit?

Torrential rains interrupted the meet, sending everyone scurrying for cover at Des Little Stadium.

But soon, Pasco County's athletes ran back onto the field. Soaking wet, they frolicked in ankle-high water and a driving rain and surfed anything in sight as they turned Des Little Stadium into a giant Slip 'N Slide in front of bemused coaches. The 3,200 meters and 4x400 relay were even run in the rain. When the fun was over, there was one surprise left: one Ridgewood team won, and one lost.

The Ridgewood girls won their 13th conference title, but the River Ridge boys won their first conference title, ending the Ram boys' run of four SAC titles.

The River Ridge boys scored 164 points, winning by 32 over Ridgewood. The Wesley Chapel boys finished a surprising third, scoring 841/2. As expected, the Ridgewood girls ran away from the field, scoring 241 to runner-up River Ridge's 126.

"I couldn't be happier for the kids," Royal Knights coach Brian Colding said. "They deserve all the credit. They ran hard and practiced hard. They set a goal, and they achieved it. They have to be proud of it. I couldn't be prouder."

River Ridge's John Gilmore and Jessica Verga, Pasco County's fastest boy and girl, were the respective points leaders.

Gilmore won the 100 (11.23 seconds) and 200 (22.60). He anchored the 4x100 relay of Jorge Luna, Andrew Massela and John Lambert to first (44.85) in one of the day's best races, coming from 15 yards behind Wesley Chapel's Tyrone Tomlin to win it.

Verga won the 100 (13.13), 200 (26.55), was second in the 400 (61.3), third in the high jump and fifth in the triple jump.

Ridgewood's Jessica Penokie won the most events, winning the closely contested 100 hurdles (15.94) over Pasco's Jessica Robinson (16.44.)

It was the same result in the 300 as Penokie (48.13) held off Robinson (48.5). Penokie also won the pole vault (10-0) and helped the 4x100 squad to first (50.8).

Ridgewood's Jim Vitale won the 800 (1:56), 1,600 (4:20) and rain-soaked 3,200 (10:22) while teammate Lizzy Leigh won the 800 (2:39.04) and 1,600 (5:36). River Ridge's Melissa Tuccio won the 3,200 (11:55) in the rain.

Land O'Lakes' Godfrey Pestana returned from a pulled left quadriceps to outduel Ridgewood's Chris Vergnaud in the 110 (16.19 to 16.45) and 300 hurdles (40.13 to 41.80).

The 400 was won by Land O'Lakes' Jessica Hansen (1:00.0) and River Ridge's Richard Eagly (51.59). The Knights' Mike Brock won the pole vault (12-0) in a battle with Pasco's Ben Alford (11-6).

The high jump was won by Ridgewood's returning state champ, Shawna Luikart (5-2), and Pasco's Keymo Pearson (6-4). Ridgewood's Nancy Edwards won the triple jump (36-3 1/2) along with teammate Joe Anders (43 3/4).

The discus was won by Wesley Chapel's Matt Harden (131-4 1/2) and Gulf's Helen Subecz (99-3); the shot put by River Ridge's Emily Ollivier (33-8) and River Ridge's Adam Eberle (48-9 1/2). The long jump was won by Ridgewood's Shawn Bean (19-9 1/4) and Zephyrhills' Tiffany Tucker (16-4 1/2).

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