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7 Panthers take their marks

In Saturday’s Class 2A meet in Coral Springs, Lecanto will have four more athletes than any other county team.

[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
Panthers Amanda Howard (front, l-r), Liz and Deidra Witherspoon, Nicole Gasiorek (back), Nicole Mailloux, Kylene Colasanti and Kate Wheeler.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


LECANTO -- Lecanto girls track coach Freddie Bullock has had more talented teams during her 19 years at the school. But it is difficult for her to remember a group that was more enjoyable to be around than her current crop of athletes.

"I get along with all of them," Bullock said. "It's a very modest group. They don't like being written about, and they're very unassuming. They try hard in school, and they're nice people."

They happen to be pretty talented, too.

In Saturday's Class 2A state meet in Coral Springs, the Panthers will have seven athletes entered -- four more than any other county team. After placing 19th last year, Lecanto -- second at regionals -- has the ability to post a top-10 finish or better. The Panthers' best performance came in 1989, when they were fifth.

Lecanto will be represented by senior Liz Witherspoon (4x400, 4x800), juniors Amanda Howard (4x800), Kylene Colasanti (high jump, 300-meter hurdles, 4x400) and Kate Wheeler (high jump, triple jump, 300 hurdles, 4x400) and freshmen Nicole Gasiorek (4x400), Nicole Mailloux (4x800) and Deidra Witherspoon (3,200, 4x800).

Wheeler, who is capable of earning medals in each of her events, also qualified for state in four events last year and finished third in the 300 hurdles. She won the high jump and triple jump and was second to Colasanti in the 300 hurdles last week at regionals.

"She's really come on the last third of the year," Bullock said of Wheeler. "She has trouble focusing the whole year, but she always focuses when it counts. She's been blessed with athletic ability and she uses it."

Colasanti is another multi-event standout. She is unbeaten in the 300 hurdles this season, and was sixth in that event in last year's state meet. Colasanti, who regularly competes in five events at meets, also was second at regionals in the high jump.

"She's just flat-out good at (the 300 hurdles)," Bullock said.

The other Lecanto athletes who will compete in multiple events Saturday, Deidra and Liz Witherspoon, are sisters. Liz also qualified for state in two events last season.

"Liz has done it the old-fashioned way," Bullock said. "She came in with a little talent and worked her butt off and got better each year. She's earned her right to be (at state)."

Howard, who reached state in 2000, and Mailloux are distance standouts. Gasiorek is one of the county's top up-and-coming sprinters.

"The seven girls (going to state) have definitely been solid," Bullock said. "This is the one meet I love for the kids. I just want them to leave knowing they've done their best."

Class A, 2A championships

WHEN: A -- Today. 2A -- Saturday.

WHERE: Coral Springs High School.

TIME: Field events -- 12:30 p.m. Running prelims -- 4 p.m. Running finals -- 7 p.m.

ADMISSION: $6.

DIRECTIONS: From Citrus County, take FL-44 east to Interstate-75. Merge onto I-75 and go south 0.6 miles before turning left on Florida's Turnpike. Take the turnpike south to Fort Pierce, then get on I-95 and go south. In Broward County, get off I-95 at State Road-834/Sample Road (Exit 36). Go west on Sample Road 5.8 miles. The school is on the right.

ON THE NET: For more information about the meets, go to www.fhsaa.org.

Local participants

BOB ADAMS, SEVEN RIVERS (Shot): Adams has top-three potential, but only if his arm -- sore in recent weeks from playing baseball -- is healthy. If he can duplicate or better his season-best throw of 48-3, he almost certainly will medal.

SHAWN ALLEN, SEVEN RIVERS (HJ): The junior is a definite title contender. He finished second in the high jump in the 2000 state meet and has had a solid spring. Allen was second in regionals with a jump of 6-4 and came close to hitting 6-6. A jump of 6-6 today could win it.

C.J. BRYANT, CITRUS (1,600): The junior is one of Florida's premier distance runners, but last week was slowed by a minor illness that kept him from also reaching state in the 800. If healthy, Bryant can challenge for first.

KYLENE COLASANTI, LECANTO (HJ, 300H, 4x400): A junior, Colasanti is one of the area's top all-around performers. The 300 hurdles is her best event, and she should improve on last year's sixth-place finish at state. Colasanti is unbeaten in the 300 hurdles this season.

RACHEL EBERT, SEVEN RIVERS (1,600): The eighth-grader is one of Citrus County's up-and-comers. In her first meet of the season, she finished the 1,600 in 6:32. Last week, she ran it in 5:43 to place fourth in regionals. Ebert's goal for this race is 5:38. If she does that, she could medal.

NICOLE GASIOREK, LECANTO (4x400): One of the county's top young runners, the freshman qualified for regionals in the 100, 400 and 4x400. Gasiorek was second at districts in the 400 and eighth at regionals.

JEREMY HENSLEY, CITRUS (Discus): The senior was fourth at regionals with a throw of 137-09. A similar throw would have been good for ninth in last year's state meet, so Hensley likely will need to go 140-0 or better to medal.

CINDY HERNDON, CITRUS (PV): Experience is a plus for Herndon, a three-time state qualifier. Last week, the senior was fourth in regionals with a vault of 9-6, which tied her school record. Herndon's region is the best for her event in Florida, which bodes well because it means a top-six finish is possible. She was eighth as a junior.

MYESHA HOLLIS, CITRUS (LJ, TJ): An all-around standout, the sophomore was first in the long jump and second in the triple jump at regionals. Her best shot at a state title should come in the long jump, in which her performance of 18-7 at districts would have won last year's state championship by 4 inches.

AMANDA HOWARD, LECANTO (4x800): The junior is one of the area's top distance runners. In last year's state meet, Howard was 12th in the 1,600. That experience could pay dividends for Lecanto, which hopes to gain points in the 4x800. The Panthers were ninth in this event last year with a time of 10:13.84, which they bested last week.

TONY LYONS, CITRUS (3,200): The sophomore, who finished second at regionals with a time of 9:52.93, has the ability to win and almost certainly will compete for a top-five finish. Lyons' performance at regionals would have been good for second in the 2000 state meet.

NICOLE MAILLOUX, LECANTO (4x800): Mailloux was first at district in the 800 and 1,600 but came up short of qualifying for state in those events. Instead, the talented freshman will get her first taste of state with the 4x800 team, which posted a school record time of 10:08.65 last week. Mailloux is the Panthers' top 800 runner.

RICK MILLER, CITRUS (800): After finishing third in the 800 in the 2000 state meet, Miller is aiming for a title, and he appears to have a good shot. Last week, he took first at regionals by logging a school-record time of 1:56.39. That would have been good for first at state last year.

KATE WHEELER, LECANTO (HJ, TJ, 300H, 4x400): The junior is a title contender in three of her four events -- the high jump, triple jump and 300 hurdles. Wheeler competed in four events at state last year, when she was third in the 300. She won regional titles in the high jump and triple jump.

DEIDRA WITHERSPOON, LECANTO (3,200, 4x800): A ninth-grader, Witherspoon was one of the area's top distance runners this season. She won conference and district titles in the 3,200 and was fourth at regionals. Her best chance to medal should come in the 4x800.

LIZ WITHERSPOON, LECANTO (4x400, 4x800): The Panthers' lone senior has a good chance to earn two medals. Both relay teams were second at regionals. Witherspoon is Lecanto's top 400 performer, and missed reaching state in that event by one place. She qualified for state in the same two events last year, when the 4x400 team was seventh.

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