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Berkeley star withstands challenge


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

TAMPA -- For the first time in a long time, Berkeley Prep's Rolf Steier was pushed -- and even passed -- during a cross country race.

The challengers were Tallahassee Maclay's Ryan Deak and Orange Park Ridgeview's Lee Yaracs. And even though they gave Steier everything they had over a twisting, turning 3-mile course at Saturday's USF/Jesuit Invitational, Steier still won.

The winning time was 15:08, three seconds ahead of Deak and 17 in front of Yaracs, who led early. "I just wanted to try and go with (Steier) and see how it went," said Deak, a 5-foot-2, 95-pound freshman. "I knew Steier was the man to beat, but I didn't know how well I could do against him. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the way things went."

Deak tried to break away at 21/4 miles, but Steier pushed the pace even more. By the time the leaders approached USF's track for the final lap, Steier led by about 30 yards and cruised the rest of the way.

"I was pretty confident once I got on the track, but before that, those guys were giving me a great race," Steier said. "It was great to get pushed like that."

Now the junior said he's looking forward to next weekend's Great American Cross Country Invitational in Charlotte, N.C., a race featuring the nation's best high schoolers, which will include Deak.

In the team race, Ridgeview won with 80 points, followed by Fort Myers Cypress Lakes (131), Ocala Vanguard (139) and Jesuit (148).

Jesuit coach Mike Boza said he was thrilled with his team's performance but added it could have been even better.

That's because Jesuit's No. 2 runner, John Astrob, struggled with what Boza believed was dehydration and finished No. 6 in the Tigers' lineup. If Astrob had run his usual race, Jesuit probably finishes second.

Citrus currently is ranked ahead of Jesuit in the state polls, but the Hurricanes, like eight other teams in the boys invitational, didn't race Saturday because of Hurricane Gordon. Colonial Grove won the boys open race with 74 points, followed by St. Petersburg Catholic (109) and Sickles (132).

Sickles' Adam Sisler won the individual open race in 16:07.

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