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Leto graduate's discipline keeps him on right track

Hard work and success this year have earned Theo Nalezynski a partial scholarship at the University of Florida.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- Before earning recognition as one of the top hurdlers in the Southeast, Theo Nalezynski excelled in other sports, including football and tae kwon do.

Last summer the recent Leto High grad made what now appears to have been a wise decision: to concentrate solely on track.

At the state high school meet in May, he placed third in both of his events. And at the recent Golden South meet near Orlando with other college-bound athletes, he placed second in the 400-meter hurdles and fourth in the 100-meter hurdles.

The hard work and success this year have earned Nalezynski a partial scholarship at the University of Florida.

It's all about sacrifice, Nalezynski said.

"Being a track athlete is sometimes a lonely sport, especially when the high school season is over," Nalezynski said. "I have to be careful what I eat, and I can't put any harmful substances into my body. That part is easy. The hard part is the sacrifice of the normal high school social life. I try to be asleep by 10 most nights, so I can't go out much with friends. No one nags me. I made my choice."

Nalezynski trains three hours a day, six days a week during the summer, three days on the track at the University of South Florida, and three days in the weight room.

"Theo is a very good athlete and has tremendous ability," said his coach, Bob Ennis.

"Because of his interest in sports even before high school, he is well conditioned, with probably less than 4 percent body fat."

For Leto High, Nalezynski competed in numerous events, including the high jump, triple jump, several relays and wherever else he was needed.

"He is just so versatile," Ennis said. "That helped the team with points, but his hurdling is his personal best event, and that is where he is focusing now for college and summer meets."

He has qualified for two major summer meets. He is scheduled to compete this weekend in the Footlocker National Championships at North Carolina State University and June 23-24 at the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships in Denton, Texas.

The top two finishers at the Junior Nationals qualify for the World Championships, scheduled for July in Chile.

He's working to raise about $600 he figures he'll need to travel to the meets. He works mornings loading railroad cars, but said he still needs sponsors.

Should he qualify for the World Championships, all expenses will be paid by USA Track and Field, because he will represent his country in foreign competition.

Anyone interested in helping to sponsor Nalezynski's trips to compete this month can call coach Ennis at (813) 961-2327.

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