By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001
INVERNESS -- Dual meet victories and conference championships are nice, but area track and field coaches will tell you that the real season starts at today's Class 2A, District 5 meet.
"This is what they've trained four months for," Citrus girls coach Bob Goddard said.
During the regular season, an athlete always has tomorrow to recover from a bad performance. Today, only the top four individuals and relay teams advance to regionals.
Everybody else goes home.
"It comes down to who can compete under pressure," Lecanto girls coach Freddie Bullock said. "District and regionals are where you find out what they're made of. Some of them handle the pressure well. Some of them don't."
Bullock's team is as battle-tested as any in the district. The Panthers have invitational wins at home, Citrus and Crystal River. Two weeks ago, they claimed their second Gulf Coast Athletic Conference title in three years after taking first in nine events.
"The disadvantage of winning something like conference is like the old cliche, sometimes people believe their press clippings," Bullock said. "Sometimes they get the illusion that they're better than they are."
Lecanto, vying for its third consecutive district title, expects a fight from Citrus and North Marion. Citrus is strong in the field events, which happens to be Lecanto's weakest area. The Panthers' chances lie mainly with their distance runners and hurdlers.
In Kate Wheeler (100-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles, triple jump, high jump and 4x400) and Kylene Colasanti (high jump, pole vault, 4x400, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles), both juniors, Lecanto has two of the district's premier athletes.
Citrus counters with an all-around standout of its own, sophomore Myesha Hollis, who finished first in the long jump and was second in the 100 and 200 at the conference meet. The Hurricanes also have first-place potential in pole vaulter Cindy Herndon and Sally Lanigan in the discus and shot put.
In the boys competition, Citrus should have a good chance of winning its third consecutive crown. The Hurricanes were fourth against a strong field at the conference meet, but none of the teams it finished behind are 2A-5 members.
The 'Canes are led by Mike Bass (400) and the distance trio of C.J. Bryant (400, 800, 1,600), Tony Lyons (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Rick Miller (800). Each won individual titles at the GCAC meet, where Citrus also was first in the 4x400 and 4x800.
Citrus' toughest opponent figures to be North Marion, which was second earlier this season at the Crystal River Invitational.
WHEN: Today, 3 p.m.
TEAMS: Citrus, Crystal River, Dunnellon, Lecanto, North Marion, Wildwood.
2000 WINNERS: Boys -- Citrus. Girls -- Lecanto.
TOP BOYS: Citrus -- Mike Bass (400), Adam Branson (pole vault), C.J. Bryant (400, 800, 1,600), Tony Lyons (800, 1,600, 3,200), Justin Macdonald (3,200), Rick Miller (800), John Rogers (shot put), Kendrick Ross (100, 200). Crystal River -- Matt Hinman (shot put), Jon Greaux (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Duncan Mackie (400), Nate Madison (long jump), Peter Manzoli (800), Rob Thompson (shot put). Lecanto -- Shohn Joyner (800), Mike Perrino (200, long jump, triple jump).
TOP GIRLS: Citrus -- Cindy Herndon (pole vault), Myesha Hollis (100, 200, long jump, triple jump), Sally Lanigan (discus, shot put), Katie Steelfox (pole vault). Crystal River -- Ieshia Natteal (200, 400), Mandy Smelko (1,600). Lecanto -- Kylene Colasanti (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, triple jump, pole vault), Nicole Gasiorek (400), Amanda Howard (1,600, 3,200), Nicole Mailloux (800, 1,600), Kate Wheeler (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, high jump, triple jump), Deidra Witherspoon (3,200), Liz Witherspoon (400).
- KEITH NIEBUHR