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Courtney shows what she's made of in state 3,200

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 9, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- As fast as Erin Courtney ran for 3,200 meters, she showed more speed as she sprinted off the infield after the event to give Central coach Rick Munford a hug.

"Did you just win at the Olympics?" Munford asked an excited Courtney, who had finished fourth in the 3,200 with a time of 12 minutes, 2.7 seconds in Saturday's Class 2A state championships at the University of Florida's Percy Beard Stadium.

On a day when many of the North Suncoast's top runners fell short of their expected finishes, Courtney went against that trend. The junior had been seeded seventh out of 16 runners, but stayed with the front of the pack for all eight laps, setting the pace for the first three.

"Oh my gosh, it feels great," said Courtney, who had established making it to the state meet as a goal for her season after narrowly missing last year. "I kept my rank for a mile and then decided it was time to show them what I was made of.

"The 2-mile is my event and I went out there and just whipped it out. I don't know how. I guess I just had so much adrenaline and was so excited."

Courtney also had qualified in the 1,600 meters, and finished 14th in 5:45.66 an hour earlier. That run not only motivated her for her favorite event, but helped get rid of any first-time-at-states nerves.

"I was really nervous before the 1-mile, but then when I went out there and did it I was like, "Wow, this isn't so bad,' " Courtney said. "It got the nerves kind of out of me, and I was just ready to go out there for the 2-mile."

Also finishing fourth for Central was the Bears' 4x100 relay, which also has the same consolation as Courtney: They will all be back next season.

Juniors Daisha Holland and Leiko Munford, who ran on relays that finished ninth at state their freshman year and seventh a year ago, will return, as will sophomore Tiffany Mobley and freshman Alaya Smiley.

Central's fourth-place showing brought mixed emotions after the race. On one hand, the Bears had improved on their showing of last year and finished exactly where they were seeded after regional qualifying, but at the same time, they realized they could have been faster.

"We came in fourth, and we stayed where we were," said coach Munford, whose relay ran a 49.2 in qualifying and a 49.26 in the final. Both times were faster than any 4x100 relay in school history before this season. "I'm a little upset with myself because I should have been in their heads a lot more. But I'm really happy with them, and these four girls are all going to be back next year."

In the only other individual event for Central, Holland barely missed qualifying for the finals in the 200 meters, missing by just .04 seconds.

Of Hernando's seven entries, senior Aondre Greene fared best, finishing sixth in the 200 meters in 22.29 seconds. Hernando's 4x400 relay of Jason Byrd, Greene, John Emerson and Eric Williams finished seventh in the night's final event, and junior Raquel Lao took eighth in the discus.

Four other Leopards entries didn't medal, but still had a solid showing in their first trips to the state meet. The boys' 4x800 relay took 10th, Gabriel Boze finished 12th in the discus, Hernando's 4x800 girls relay took 13th, and Dan Brown finished 14th in the shot put.

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