By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000
Soccer, Deanna Drugash says, is her No. 1 sport, and she spent much of her summer playing midfield for the Largo United club team.
If she keeps running cross country this well, however, soccer's No. 1 ranking soon could be in serious jeopardy.
Drugash, a freshman at Largo, is just two meets into her high school career, but she's demonstrated poise and ability far beyond her years, especially considering her summer training was done in cleats, kicking a ball around, instead of logging miles.
In the season-opening dual meet against Seminole on Aug. 30 at Taylor Park, Drugash paced herself well behind the leaders for the first two miles before surging to place second to Warhawk senior Jackie Magee in 21:09.
In an eight-team meet at Palm Harbor University on Sept. 7, Drugash stayed with the lead group, which whittled itself down to Drugash and Seminole's Nicole Ferraro. When Ferraro tired, Drugash broke away to win in 20:28, also beating Magee in the process.
Not bad for a freshman who was afraid to go out for the team five weeks ago because she thought she wasn't good enough.
"I was scared to go on the team. But my mom (Sandy Drugash) told me to get out there," said Drugash, who will run Saturday in the University of South Florida/Jesuit Invitational. "I've made a lot of friends, and all the girls are nice and supportive.
"(Largo) coach (Mike) Beck and the girls said I had a chance to win (at PHU). I didn't believe it, but as I was running I started believing it."
Drugash has been running since fifth grade at Fuguitt Elementary, and she ran a 6:17 mile last year at John Hopkins Middle School, so her success isn't shocking.
"I knew she was good, but she's never been coached or trained," Beck said. "She was succeeding on her talent until five weeks ago. ... She has unlimited potential."
While running is No. 2 to soccer (for now) on Drugash's sports pecking order, soccer is eclipsed by singing. Drugash, who lives in Largo, was admitted to the arts program at Gibbs, but she instead opted for nearby Largo and its magnet program, the 21st Century Learning Center and Teaching Arts Academy.
Last year Drugash was the eighth-grade honor society president, and she is running for freshman class president. Beck thinks students with a wide range of interests and talents, such as Drugash, usually make good runners. His theory certainly proved true this time.
"If they play another sport, it usually means two things: they're athletic, and they're competitive, and that's good," Beck said. "I ask girls, do you play another sport? Do you get straight A's? If they have the attitude to do that, maybe they can do this.
"Deanna's a real good girl, and she's talented up and down the line. Girls like that don't fall off trees every day."