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Back together, faster than ever

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


WESLEY CHAPEL -- Ignorance isn't bliss, but sometimes it helps.

Like it did at the Class 2A, Region 2 meet on April 26 when a 4x100 relay team of three sophomores and a freshman lined up against the mature, fleet veterans of teams like Rockledge. But someone forgot to tell the young Wesley Chapel contingent that it wasn't supposed to be in the running for the state meet.

It's a good thing, too.

Otherwise freshman B.B. Roberts wouldn't have started the race so strong and set the Wildcats' pace; otherwise when Nick Carter passed the baton to Greg Harrison, he might not have closed the gap from sixth to fifth place; otherwise anchor Tyrone Tomlin wouldn't have turned fifth into fourth place and a berth in the state meet with a full-bore sprint at the end.

Otherwise Wesley Chapel would not be sending its first Wildcats to a state track meet, Saturday's Class 2A Florida Finals at Coral Springs High's Jim Caldwell Field.

"It was tough," Tomlin said. "But it feels good."

Count coach Tony Lister among the surprised -- pleasantly surprised, that is.

"Immensely," he said. "I mean, I can't believe it. We've got three sophomores and a freshman here. It's surprising that kids so young can do an event that has so much precision, so much timing."

This same crew has been running the event since its days at Weightman Middle School, but the team was broken up last year, with Roberts still in middle school, Harrison out with torn knee ligaments and Tomlin serving a disciplinary suspension.

But now they're back together and faster than ever, running the event in a school-record 44.38 seconds to win the district title.

They're all talented and fleet sprinters, of course. Spring football practice at Wesley Chapel is incomplete with five of the team's best athletes preparing for the state meet.

But being so young has, in its own way, helped the team, Lister said.

"I don't think they have, or did realize, what they're doing," the coach said. "I don't think they knew they weren't supposed to win or even qualify for state.

"I don't think they know they should be intimidated."

The best might be yet to come. Harrison, who is recovering from torn ligaments in both knees, said he's not 100 percent. He said placing at regionals gave the team a huge shot of confidence.

"We ran with a lot of top schools in the regional and they're all pretty fast," he said. "Since we came in fourth, now I think we can run with anybody."

Tomlin, though, is a bit more impatient. He has his sights set past Saturday, to a day when the seniors run their final race.

How good will they be then?

"I can't wait to find out," Tomlin said.

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