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Bulls senior bides her time, gets in shape

Amber Littleton isn't winning now. But she will be a contender by state.

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


BRANDON -- Amber Littleton laughs at her schedule, doesn't think it's a big deal.

To outsiders, however, it might seem brutal, particularly on the shins: fall cross country, winter soccer, spring track, summer club soccer.

Littleton's father, Steve, has watched the Bloomingdale senior follow the schedule for almost three years, and he said he knows it's rough.

"She's had some serious bruises after some of those games," Steve said. "We've taken her to the chiropractor some weeks just to get her put back into shape. And then after that, you try to plan a running workout? Yeah, you bet it's tough."

That's why Littleton, the 1998 state cross country champion as a sophomore, has followed a trend the past year and a half. Unable to get in much preseason running, she starts the track and cross country seasons relatively slowly and then makes up ground as the state meet approaches.

This is not to say Littleton is way back in the pack. It's just that you won't see her winning many of the early races, especially when the county's other top two runners, East Bay's Lindsey Moffenbier and Riverview's Dee Dee Haefling, are in the hunt.

Littleton said she doesn't like it that way, but she is keeping her perspective.

"When I get in shape, then it's all about winning," she said. "Right now, it's about getting through the races with the best effort I can have. And if I'm near the front and have a chance to win, then I'll go for it.

"Winning the races, that's the fun part of running."

Today at the Raider Invitational at Plant City's Walden Lake (start time is 5:30), Littleton is expected to be near the lead pack but is not the favorite.

Haefling, after a strong summer of workouts and winning her first two races (East Hillsborough meet and the Winter Haven Invitational), is considered the front-runner with Moffenbier a likely runner-up.

In a little more than a month, however, let's see where Littleton is finishing.

"I'm going to concentrate more this year on running (as opposed to soccer) because I know running is my chance to get a college scholarship," said Littleton, who is being recruited by Florida State, South Florida, University of Tampa and Florida. "I love playing soccer, but running is my ticket."

Steve Littleton, an NCAA cross country and track All-American for Pittsburgh in the mid-1970s, organizes his daughter's workouts. He said he knows she's behind, but she still has the talent to make up a lot of ground.

"If we had trained on the running all summer, it would be a completely different story," he said. "But that wouldn't have been the best thing for Amber.

"I think she'll be fine. She has the speed and strength to do some great things. It's just a matter of how much she wants it."

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