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Citrus, Central earn wins

The Hurricane boys win their first Citrus Invitational while the Bear girls prevent a sweep.

By WAYNE GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


INVERNESS -- North Suncoast cross country teams always have circled the Citrus Invitational on their schedules.

The course at Whispering Pines and a loaded field combine to make the meet a suitable warmup for conference and district competition.

In the past seven years, boys teams from Lecanto, Central, Hernando and Ridgewood have used wins at the meet as a springboard to a state championship. Citrus, meanwhile, has never won its meet.

The drought ended Saturday as Citrus placed four runners in the top 10 to pull away from Central for a 43-67 win. Citrus, the second-ranked team in Class 2A, will try to follow the example set by the other North Suncoast state champions.

"Even in our best years, when we were regional champs, we haven't been able to win this race. This is a big step forward for our program and a real satisfying step forward," Citrus boys coach Bruce Nelson said. "If we are going to be competitive at the state level, we have to keep getting better."

Citrus' girls just missed pulling off a Hurricane sweep. Central outdistanced Citrus 85-104 for the team title.

The field was loaded with talent, but many teams were short-handed because of injuries and Saturday's SAT. The most notable names missing were Ridgewood's Jim Vitale and Lecanto's Amanda Howard.

Vitale, who won the Red Mule Invitational a few weeks ago, decided not to run, according to coach Glenn Cable. Howard, the Citrus County champion, sat out with a hip injury.

Ridgewood suffered the most as it was unable to field enough runners to qualify for team scores.

Belleview's Ryan Ripley pulled ahead of the Vitale-less field to win the boys title in 15 minutes, 22 seconds. Citrus' Tony Lyons grabbed second in 15:30, and Hernando's John Emerson finished third with a personal-best 15:35.

Land O'Lakes' Scott Habershaw took fourth in a personal-best 15:40, and Central's Trever Scales grabbed fifth in 15:42.

Gulf's Barbara Carr defended her title, winning in a season-best 19:10. Carr's kick helped her pull away from some familiar faces.

"Lizzy (Leigh), me and Erin (Courtney) were all packed together the whole way, trading a little bit," Carr said. "That last straightaway, I pulled up and tried to give it everything I had."

Courtney, from Central, took second in 19:19, keying the Bears' push for a team title. The Bears were one of the few teams with a full complement of healthy runners.

"The key is just that we finally have all seven varsity runners," Central girls coach Lisa Bilodeau said.

"We've had some weird injuries that we couldn't do much with."

Leigh, from Ridgewood, took third in 19:28, and Springstead's Lindsay Boldt grabbed fourth in 19:34. Cindy Wade gave Gulf two runners in the top five, finishing fifth in a personal-best 19:43.

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