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Wheeler's talent creates lofty goals

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


LECANTO -- Kate Wheeler was in elementary school when she first made a name for herself on the track.

In the years that have followed, her toughest battle has been not with the opposition butwith the seemingly unreachable expectations that others have heaped upon her.

"Ever since I was little, people have built me up," Wheeler said. "I don't like that. I just do what I can do."

For the record, she can do quite a bit.

The Lecanto junior recently completed a season in which she advanced to the Class 2A state meet in four events -- the high jump, triple jump, 300-meter hurdles and 4x400. She placed second in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches) and was sixth in the triple jump (35-07) to earn 11 of her team's 17.50 points.

With any luck, she could have earned more.

After winning conference and district titles in the 100 hurdles, one of her best events, Wheeler's bid to reach state in five events was derailed by a false start. "I was happy (with the season), except for the false start at regionals in the 100," she said. "That's one of my favorite things, so I was sad about that."

That Wheeler performed at such a high level in 2001 came as no surprise.

She qualified for state in the same four events as a sophomore, when she won district championships in the high jump, 300 hurdles and 4x400 relay and placed third at state in the 300 hurdles.

"She knows she has talent, but her demeanor would never indicate that," Lecanto coach Freddie Bullock said. "She's not brash about it.

"She's just a special person. And what she has is an uncanny ability. Once she messes up once, she goes on to the next (event). I don't think people have a clue how devastated she was about false starting in the 100 hurdles at regionals, but she was able to go compete the rest of the meet and do well."

During the off-season, Wheeler will play volleyball and basketball to stay in shape. Then, next spring, she hopes to better her impressive performances of 2000 and 2001.

"This year, my goal was to get to state in five events, but I got messed up," Wheeler said. "Next year, I want to get there in five events and place 1-8 in all my events. If I work hard and everything goes right, I could do it."

Turns out, Wheeler has pretty high expectations of herself, too.

GIRLS SQUAD

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Kate Wheeler.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Freddie Bullock, Lecanto.

KYLENE COLASANTI, JR., LECANTO: Fourth at state in 300 hurdles (47.69); first in conference, district and regional meets. Also qualified for state in the high jump (eighth) and 4x400 (10th).

ERIN COURTNEY, SR., CENTRAL: One year after finishing fourth in state in the 3,200, she won district in the 1,600 and 3,200; finished second in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference 3,200.

NICOLE GASIOREK, FR., LECANTO: State qualifier and district champion in 4x400 (10th); second in 400 at conference and district, 8th at regional.

CINDY HERNDON, SR., CITRUS: Three-time state qualifier in the pole vault, in which she was 12th in the 2A championships; owns school record of 9-6; conference champion and district runner-up, fourth in regional.

MYESHA HOLLIS, SO., CITRUS: Eighth at state in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump; first at conference, district and region in the long jump; had area-best long jump of 18-7 in district meet; district champion and conference runner-up in 100 and 200.

RAQUEL LAO, SR., HERNANDO: State champion in discus; went undefeated all season, setting school record with mark of 124-0 in first meet.

NICOLE MAILLOUX, FR., LECANTO: Qualified for state in the 4x800 (11th); conference and district champion in 800 and 1,600; seventh at regional in 800, fifth in 1,600.

TIFFANY MOBLEY, JR., CENTRAL: The GCAC Co-Athlete of the Year ran on 4x100 relay that reached state finals, and she won the 200 meters and triple jump in district.

CHRISTINE ROE, SR., CENTRAL: Eleventh at state in the discus; second at conference and district and fourth in regional.

ALAYA SMILEY, SO., CENTRAL: Ran with Mobley on 4x100 relay; won conference 100-meter crown and qualified for region in four events.

KATE WHEELER, JR., LECANTO: GCAC Female Athlete of the Year; second at state in the high jump, sixth in the triple jump; also reached state in the 300-meter hurdles and 4x400; captured conference titles in high jump, 100 hurdles and 4x800; won district crowns in high jump, triple jump, 100 hurdles and 4x400; earned regional championship in high jump and was second in 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.

DEIDRA WITHERSPOON, FR., LECANTO: Eighth at state in the 3,200; first at conference, district and fourth at regionals; qualified for state in the 4x800 (11th), which won conference and district titles.

LIZ WITHERSPOON, SR., LECANTO: Qualified for state in the 4x400 (10th) and 4x800 (11th); conference and district champion in the 400, 4x400 and 4x800; second at district in the long jump; fifth at regional in 400, missing state by .67 seconds.

HONORABLE MENTION

CENTRAL -- Jennifer Adams, Jaimie Costanzo, Leiko Munford, Christine Roe. CITRUS -- Danialle Coates, Sally Lanigan, Shivella Rogers, Katie Steelfox. CRYSTAL RIVER -- Ieshia Natteal, Jerrica Sawyer. HERNANDO -- Karla Rodriguez, Katee Lukas. LECANTO -- Jill Bandhauer, Amanda Howard. SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN -- Rachel Ebert. SPRINGSTEAD -- Lindsay Boldt.

-- KEITH NIEBUHR and GREG AUMAN

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