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Cougar's comeback culminates at PCAC meet

Countryside senior Erin Wilson is running well again after a yearlong slump.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


Everything about the transition was going smoothly.

Erin Wilson liked north Pinellas County even though it is much faster paced than her former hometown, Fort Walton Beach. She liked her new school, too, Countryside.

She liked her classes, her teachers and her new friends. Everything was just peachy.

Except running.

As a sophomore at Choctawhatchee High in Fort Walton Beach, Wilson was the cross country team's No. 1 runner, and she consistently ran sub-21 minute races with a personal best of 20:20.

Last fall, however, after her family moved, she began running poorly. Cross country became a drag.

"I just didn't adjust to running. I don't know why," Wilson said. "I was running 23s. I wasn't doing as well. It wasn't fun anymore. I had adjusted to everything else but not running. I just didn't want to do it anymore, basically.

"I figure everyone has to go through that at least once, and last year was mine."

Tuesday at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, Wilson's rebirth was complete. Digging deep in the final half-mile with Largo's Deanna Drugash and Palm Harbor University's Lauren McKinley on her heels, Wilson pulled away to win in 19:20, her best time ever.

Last year, she didn't sniff the leaders in the big races. Now, the senior is the PCAC champion.

"When it was just me and (Drugash), she was right there, and I was like, "Oh no, she has more energy than I do,"' said Wilson, who is the only child of Warren and Denise Wilson. "Coming into the race, oh yeah, I wanted to win. I knew I had beaten these people, but it was iffy. They had beaten me, too. We're all right there.

"Before the season, no way I thought I would run this well."

During the summer, at running camp in Asheville, N.C., she rediscovered her desire to run. The moment of inspiration came when a group she was looking forward to joining at the camp dumped her because she wasn't in good enough condition. Her training picked up shortly thereafter, and she began to like the sport again.

Now, she thinks she will run in college.

"During the summer, I just started enjoying it," Wilson said. "I love it here, and running is fun again."

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