By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001
CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 4
TEAMS: Bloomingdale, Chamberlain, Gaither, Hillsborough, Leto, Bradenton Manatee, Palm Harbor U., Pinellas Park, Plant City, Riverview, Sarasota Riverview, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Venice, Wharton
THE SKINNY: Girls -- There are some traditionally strong teams here, including Sarasota Riverview, the defending district champion, and Bloomingdale. PHU graduated top runner Lauren McKinley, but sophomore Kerrie Savery and junior Rebekah Lindsey (top time of 19:37) came on strong late last season. PHU is ranked No. 10 in the 4A state rankings by www.flrunners.com. St. Petersburg coach Robert Townsend is hoping to mine a few gems from the more than 20 girls who came out. Four of the Green Devils' top five are back, including sophomore Amber McClain and junior Tiffany Maxwell. Pinellas Park is led by Diana Varga.
Boys -- St. Petersburg also returns four of its top five boys, led by sophomore Clayton Hofstra and seniors Joe Matthews, Dan Simms and Brendan Christ. After modest summer workouts, expect the Green Devils to peak late. PHU senior Anthony Poppick (16:42) should be one of the county's best, and coach Darryl Southard hopes to have more depth.
THE SKINNY: Girls -- Seminole is ranked No. 12 in 3A by flrunners.com and is the only school in the district in the top 15. The Warhawks, as always, are deep and talented and return a solid core that includes juniors Meagan Giesa and Carly Stransky. Sophomore Deanna Drugash and senior Amber Murzynski, second-team all-county picks last year, and senior Erin Mayros are Largo's top returnees. A gang of freshman have come out for the team, led by Layla Hall. And PCAC junior varsity champion Abby Hunter, a junior, has made huge strides. Countryside lost PCAC champ Erin Wilson. Bogie should be more competitive under new coach Monte Hoge, who won PCAC titles with the Dixie Hollins boys in the 1990s. The Pirates are led by steady seniors Lynne Hall and Heather Manley. Boys -- Seminole, who graduated No. 2 runner Anthony Espaillat, is ranked No. 4 by flrunners.com, but sophomore Nate Holden has transferred to Indian Rocks Christian. Largo sustained a big hit with the graduation of PCAC champion Danny Bauer, but its depth improved late last season and junior Matt Timm is a solid No. 1. Jason Schultz is the top returnee for Clearwater.
THE SKINNY: Girls -- CCC sophomore standout Apryl Wall (19:05), who also plays club soccer in the fall, usually won't participate in Saturday meets until the end of the season. Coach Jeff Righter said junior Amanda Strickland has looked strong, and he calls the team a "wild card," in part because several others also will play soccer. For Osceola, No. 1 runner Sarah Geigle returns
Boys -- CCC junior Kevin Lyons (15:32) established himself as one of the area's best in 2000 and earned first-team all-county honors. Lyons was second in the region last year, 14 seconds behind Sebring's Chase Travers. Travers and Lyons are ranked No. 3 and 4, respectively, in 2A by flrunners.com. Senior J.R. Ferraro, a strong 800-meter runner, and sophomore Brian Tuorto have established themselves as CCC's Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.
THE SKINNY: Girls -- Indian Rocks Christian must compete in a stacked district, which has three of the top five teams in the Class A rankings on flrunners.com: Holy Names (No. 2), Berkeley Prep (No. 4) and IRC (No. 5). Eighth-grade phenom Melissa Kotchman burst onto the scene last fall and could be the county's top runner. Junior Jessica Miller (20:01), who had a superb track season, and newcomer Chrissy Carpenter also are quality runners. Boys -- The IRC boys aren't at the level of the Golden Eagles girls, but they could be soon. The team, 16th in the state meet last year and ranked 15th by flrunners.com, is loaded with quality, experienced sophomores, led by top returnee Jeremy Myer (21st at state) and Nate Holden, who is back at the school after spending his freshman year at Seminole. Rolf Steier of Berkeley Prep is the defending state champion
TEAMS: Admiral Farragut, Bradenton Academy, Bradenton Christian, Fort Myers Canterbury, Canterbury, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Community School of Naples, Keswick Christian, Bradenton Manatee H.E.A.T., Northside Christian, Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy, Naples St. John Neumann, St. Petersburg Catholic, Bradenton St. Stephen's Episcopal, Sarasota Christian, Shorecrest.
THE SKINNY: Girls -- Shorecrest, ranked No. 9 by flrunners.com, is very deep and experienced, chock full of juniors and seniors and is poised for good things. Christa Benton's loss is as big as it gets, but Keswick returns several good runners led by seniors Jessica West, Bonnie Klepacki, Lauren Suttell and Kendra Oliver. St. Petersburg Catholic barely missed qualifying for state last year in 2A. Eighth-grader Elizabeth Wells is Admiral Farragut's top runner.
Boys -- Admiral Farragut's John Biffar is the man to beat, but he'll be chasing Steier in the region and state. Shorecrest, like with its girls team, returns several good runners, led by senior Matt Mosby. However, the loss of junior Keith Evanouskas to St. Petersburg Catholic hurts. SPC, moving down from 2A, lost district champion Mike Craig to graduation from last year's region runners-up but returns juniors Tony Cormier (16:17) and Brian Sullivan (16:46). Keswick junior Tanner Tidwell raced well late in the season and was 27th at state. -- Compiled by Pete Young.