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Top coach Darby had a year to remember


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2000

INVERNESS -- Tom Darby and his coaching staff knew heading into the 2000 track and field season that the Citrus boys team had the talent for a very successful year.

What they didn't realize was just how good the Hurricanes would be.

The Citrus boys won the conference and district titles and went on to earn the school's first regional title since Darby arrived in 1982.

"Coming in, we knew we were looking at some pretty good people coming back," Darby said. "But it's hard to count on that because we've been there before; some would peter out, they might not have grades, they'd get hurt, or anything might happen. You can't really count on it. In your own mind, you sit and fiddle with the times and slots and what it could be, but in the blink of an eye it could all change."

This year, what Darby believed the boys team could be, it became. Although he won't take an ounce of credit, the athletes and coaching staff say the team's success reflects the dedication of the veteran coach.

"One of the reasons he's a really good coach is that he's got over 30 years of experience in track alone, so that makes him one of the deans of track and field in Florida," Citrus assistant coach Bob Goddard said. "He knows what he's doing. And he's a warrior. That comes across to the kids and they become one."

Citrus sprinter Brent Mobley has often credited Darby with his success after his sophomore season when he was sidelined with a severe hip injury.

"The coaching staff, especially coach Darby, made me what I am," Mobley said. "Coach Darby is a great coach. I've always said that if I ever go to the Olympics, I want coach Darby to be my coach."

Darby credits the athletes, whom he termed some of the best young people he has ever worked with.

"It was just so easy to coach these kids and work with them," he said. "It was so much fun. We had a group that we had known four years and they knew us. They knew what we had to get done and how Bob and I go about doing it.

"When you don't have to teach all that and you have the older kids teaching it and taking the younger kids by the hand, saying "do this and don't do that because it will make Darby crazy,' it makes the season so easy and so pleasant."

This season, the Hurricanes began with more than 100 students in track. "We have kids that come out for track just to be coached by Darby," Goddard said. "They are attracted to that old-school type of coach he is. They know if they can handle Darby's workouts, they can handle anything life has to offer."

Darby attributes the large turnout to the fact the teams have been successful and that Inverness Middle School "does a reasonable job" of giving students an opportunity to experience track prior to high school.

Once the athletes get on the Citrus track, however, Darby said on overriding factor keeps them coming back: a good time.

"Our No. 1 deal is we have fun," he said. "We enjoy being out there and having fun with each other. We have hard work, but not drudgery. We change around a lot and do a lot of different things."

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