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Rams go from bad to worse

Ridgewood has trouble getting to the Class 3A meet. And once there, little goes well.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


CORAL SPRINGS -- In the annals of bad omens, here's a brand new one courtesy of Ridgewood: two 18-wheelers, tangled up in a horrific crash that left Interstate 95 backed up for miles -- and the Rams, on their way to Friday's Class 3A state meet, stuck in the middle of it.

Or how about the overturned car on Sample Road that left traffic outside Coral Springs' Jim Caldwell Field gridlocked -- with distance runners Lizzy Leigh and Jim Vitale stuck in the mess just minutes before their first events of the day?

Or how about Vitale's running shoes, which he left at home in New Port Richey, leaving him to chew up his feet in the 800 and 1,600 meters in high jumper Kevin Brantley's spikes?

As hard as it is to believe, it all went downhill from there for the Rams and many of the North Suncoast's representatives. Ridgewood's best had a rough day as many seniors closed out their careers. The best finish of the day belonged to senior Nancy Edwards, who won a fifth-place medal in the triple jump with a personal-best leap of 35 feet, 53/4 inches.

To Edwards, that made up for an eighth-place finish in the high jump, where she tied three other girls, including teammate Shawna Luikart, at 5-0.

"I was kind of upset after the high jump," Edwards said. "But the triple jump made my day. But I was upset that I was just 13/4 inches from the school record."

Luikart, the defending state high jump champ, also said she was disappointed. "Not our best," both Luikart and Edwards said to describe their performances it the event.

"Next when I'm at USF," Edwards said, "I'll come back and help her with everything I've learned there so she can whip some (butt)."

Ridgewood's Lizzy Leigh had just 10 minutes to warm up for the 1,600 when she finally arrived. But she only lined up in the blocks and ran a few meters. Instead, she concentrated on the 800, finishing eighth (2 minutes, 20.89 seconds).

Teammate Jen Hayes finished eighth in the 100 hurdles (15.94), and Jessica Penokie, who also competed in the pole vault and 300 hurdles, was ninth (16.29).

Even without his shoes, Vitale started strong in both the 800 and 1,600 but couldn't maintain the lead, falling out of medal contention with an injured foot.

Belle Glade Glades Central edged Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 41-401/2 for the boys title. St. Thomas Aquinas won the girls title, scoring 98 points. Orlando Oak Ridge was second with 52 points.

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