By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001
CORAL SPRINGS -- John Gilmore had fought through the pain for two weeks. Every time he was flying down the track in a sprint, the River Ridge junior seemed to be in the lead until pain in his right shin forced him to shift down a gear. Despite the recurring injury, Pasco County's fastest man took second at the district meet and third at the regionals.
But at Saturday's Class 4A state meet, the pain didn't wait until halfway through the race to flare up. Gilmore was in pain when he lined up in the blocks for the 100-meter final.
By the time he hit the finish line, the mental pain was just as bad.
A hobbled and disappointed Gilmore missed medaling in the state's toughest 100 race by 7 hundredths of a second, finishing ninth. Wharton's Dwight Ellick won the race in 10.60 while Gilmore finished in 10.97. Gilmore's season best, 10.72, would have put him fourth. "I'm just disappointed," he said. "I had a hard time sprinting. It was like I didn't have any power. Coach had me practicing light all week, so I didn't run too much on it. But it just hurt too much.
"I'll prepare hard for next year and win it."
Gilmore's teammate, Mike Brock, medaled in a tough pole vault field, turning in a vault of 12 feet, 6 inches to finish eighth. "I could have done better," Brock said. "I knew I had a chance of placing (entering this season). I just wanted to get in the top three."
Royal Knights boys coach Brian Colding said Brock had done enough this season, winning conference, district and regional titles.
"I think he had a great year," Colding said. "I'm proud of him. Emotionally, all he's thinking about is this night, but he really needs to reflect on what a great year he's had."
Melissa Tuccio turned in a personal best in the 3,200, 11:47.51 and was seven seconds shy of medaling.
"I wanted to try and get a medal," she said. "The competition was good here. I've just got to hold out better next time."
Jessica Verga broke a minute in the 400 for the third consecutive race, but it wasn't enough to reach the final as the leaders had times in the 55-second range.
But after Verga and her family escaped injury in a Friday car crash that left one woman hospitalized, it was good enough.
"I wanted to race against my time," Verga said, "not against the other sprinters.
"You can't control what they're going to do."
Added Royal Knights girls coach Dave Heywood: "I just thanked her for bringing me to state two years in a row."
Miami Northwestern won the girls title with 83 points. Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson won the boys title with 54 points.