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Ridgewood eyes first regional title

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ask Nancy Edwards if Ridgewood's girls team can win the first regional track title in school history and her answer amounts to this:

Well, winning is what the Rams are supposed to do, right?

"Getting first place, that's kind of expected now," the junior said. "It's demanded. Yeah, it is because everybody knows Ridgewood wins all the time. So it kind of pushes us to get to first place."

Historically, winning titles is what the Rams have done best. Ridgewood has won 13 conference titles and 12 district titles in the program's 15-year history.

But a regional title would be the crown jewel of the Rams' star-studded trophy case. They'll get their chance to acquire such a gem at today's Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Clearwater's Jack White Stadium.

No doubt today Ridgewood will rely on the same field of stars that have helped carry it throughout the season, names such as Katie Halkitis in the pole vault, Lizzy Leigh in the 800 and 1,600 meters and Tyler Webber in the 300 intermediate hurdles.

But to win the regional title against a tough field, the Rams will need standout performances from every member of the contingent; the same group of Rams that emerged from the shadows of a Leigh, a Halkitis, a Webber to dominate last week's Class 3A, District 9 meet. "Those girls have always been the strength of the team," Ridgewood coach Sue Vien said about her stars. "But at the district meet, we saw a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen really step up and take control.

"We'll need them to do it again (today)."

Athletes like Edwards, one of the most versatile Rams who qualified for today's meet in the high, long and triple jumps, the 100 high hurdles and the 4x100 relay.

"She's been great," Vien said. "Always, we can count on her all week, every week, week after week. She runs the hurdles. She does the jumps. She's an important part of the relay team."

Vien also is looking for strong performances from:

Freshman Jen Hayes, who qualified in the 100 high hurdles, the high and long jumps and the 100 and 200. "She scored 164 points for us this season," Vien said. "She is going to be great to watch in the future; a very bright future."

Sophomore Shawna Luikart, competing in the high and triple jumps. "Her strength is that she has legs up to my eyes," Vien said. "She's the last of the "Leaping Luikarts' as we call them, brothers and sisters who stand 6-foot, built strong and lean. And she's got what it takes."

Freshman Crystal Phillips, also in the 400. "She's very powerful, very strong," Vien said. "You look at her, and it's like, "Wow, muscles."'

Sophomore Bridgette Pinzker, who will run the 400. "She has kind of plateaued for the last three weeks or so," Vien said, "and she broke out this past week. I think Bridgette really muscled it out in that race."

Junior Magarita Salas, who will compete in the 200, the long jump, and the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. "She's my sprinter," Vien said. "You can always count on her."

Sophomore Lizzie Sheridan, who will run in the 3,200 and 4x800 relay. "Always in the shadow of Lizzy Leigh," Vien said. "Always runs the distance races and has always been right behind Lizzy. She probably has the best work ethic on the team. She practices 100 percent and never complains. She's a team player."

Vien knows it will be her top people who lead the team to victory; but everyone today can do their best to ensure victory.

"Your No. 1 and 2 people are the ones who are most likely going to make it to the finals in their events," Vien said.

"If you're No. 3 or 4 you're going to have to work your tails off to be in the finals. We have to see how scrappy they are, how hungry they are.

"I'm hoping we can win it."

Said Edwards: "We need as many people to place as possible, and I think we'll get a lot of people to place."

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