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Stage now set for long rivalry

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000


Kevin Lyons has it all mapped out.

This year, St. Petersburg Catholic has moved up to join Clearwater Central Catholic in Class 2A, meaning if his calculations are correct, Lyons, CCC's No. 1 runner, could meet SPC No. 1, Mike Craig, nine times this year.

If the next eight meetings are anything like the Sept. 7 showdown in the Indian Rocks Christian Invitational, they will have an electrifying rivalry.

Craig stayed glued to Lyons' shoulder for about the first 21/2 miles. With about 750 yards to go, Craig shifted into an extended kick, which he held through the finish for a 10-yard win. In the most recent rankings on www.coachnet.net, Craig is No. 7 and Lyons No. 8 in Class 2A. Craig's game plan -- to let Lyons dictate the pace -- was part of a team-wide strategy by the Barons, to go out conservatively and finish strong. The tactic worked as the Barons won easily.

SPC sophomore Tony Cormier was in a pack of four occupying the No. 5 through 8 spots, about 150 yards out of fourth, with a little more than a mile to go. He broke away from his group and made up the distance to finish fourth.

"We've changed our racing strategy. That's the way we want to do it," Craig said. "It's easier to catch someone than to hold them off."

ADVANTAGE ... WHOM? The Keswick Christian girls edged Shorecrest 52-53 to win the IRC meet, but the advantage could shift in the coming weeks.

The Chargers were missing their top runner, junior Stephanie Kyriakides, who had surgery to remove a cyst from her heel and will be out another two weeks. It might take a month or so for Kyriakides to round into form, but her presence will provide a boost.

Also, Kristin McLain, Shorecrest's No. 3 runner, had a cold and didn't finish the race. Stepping into the void was sophomore Brittany Whitelock, who was third overall in 20:58 in what Shorecrest coach Jeff Raab called the best race of her career.

While the addition of Kyriakides and return to form of McLain should bump Shorecrest ahead of Keswick, in the large meets, the Crusaders have what could be called "The Christa Benton Advantage."

Benton, the two-time defending state champion, is so good and consistent, she is almost guaranteed to finish first in every race. Meanwhile, Shorecrest's top runner might finish second to Benton in a dual meet, but in larger races could finish much farther back.

For example, in the state meet last year, Benton placed first, and Kyriakides, Shorecrest's top finisher, placed 36th. Keswick was eighth and Shorecrest ninth in the team standings.

Keswick is No. 2 and Shorecrest No. 3 in the Class A girls team rankings on coachnet.net.

"It came right down to the end today," Raab said after the IRC meet. "Both teams are great. It's going to be an exciting year."

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