By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000
Seminole's Joe Van Asten and Mark Smith finished first and fourth, respectively, at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet last year, leading the Warhawks to a convincing victory over runner-up Largo and third-place St. Petersburg, 38-72-78.
Alas, Van Asten and Smith have graduated, leaving the 2000 Seminole cross country team ... as still the best in the county. Nos. 3, 4 and 5 runners Gordon Redshaw (junior), Anthony Espaillat (senior) and Matt Morton (junior) are back and better than ever after a hard summer of training. Now instead of rounding out the Warhawks scoring, the trio is at the head of the pack.
Seminole also has imported a strong No. 4 runner, freshman Nate Holden, a transfer from Indian Rocks Christian who will be among the best freshmen in the county. There are a bevy of competent contenders for the No. 5 spot, including senior Jason Kiggens and juniors Andrew Kennedy, Derek Pakus, Brett Henning and Pat Kyne.
How close and competitive are the five runners competing for the No. 5 position for Seminole? The quintet finished within 15 seconds of each other in a dual meet win over Largo on Wednesday at Taylor Park.
The Warhawks have quality and depth, which has coach Bruce Calhoun optimistic about the possibility of conference and district title repeats and of making another strong showing at the Class 3A state meet, where Seminole finished 11th in 1999.
"I don't know what else is out there, but I know I like our team," said Calhoun, who is in his 18th year at Seminole. "Beyond that, I don't know what anybody else has to offer.
"There are an awful lot of good coaches with an awful lot of good runners. But I'm encouraged by our team."
Largo, 14th in the 3A state meet, is expected to be one of the top area teams, but the Packers will need to get much stronger behind No. 1 Dan Bauer -- the top returning runner in the county who cemented his status with an easy win in Wednesday's meet -- if they are to challenge the Warhawks.
Bauer, a senior, has been training 50-70 miles a week and has established lofty goals for himself, including breaking 15 minutes at Taylor Park, winning the individual conference, district and region titles and contending for the state title. Bauer, who has been nursing a sore right knee, was third in the district and conference and fourth in the region in 1999.
Clearwater Central Catholic had the highest state-meet finish of any county school last year, placing seventh in 2A. The Marauders were decimated by graduation, however, losing four of their top five runners. Erstwhile No. 3 runner Kevin Lyons, a sophomore, has improved significantly since last year and will give Bauer a push for the title of best runner in the county.
St. Petersburg Catholic, eighth in the Class A state meet, lost No. 1 Ben Taylor to graduation but returns its next four runners, led by Mike Craig, who was 16th at the state meet in 16:28. Craig had a personal best of 16:08 last season.