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Trash-talking stars lead Sickles

The rivalry between Dan Doromal and Adam Sisler has proved to be milder than last year's Gryphon rivalry.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


TAMPA -- If last year's Sickles cross country rivalry was one of the hottest in the county, this year's edition of Gryphon vs. Gryphon has to be the weirdest.

Last year's undercard featured Dan Doromal, the junior, versus Brian Taylor, the senior. Both were capable of leading the team -- not to mention the entire field -- on any given week. The two were respectful of each other, many times running together before races and during practice. However, there also existed a latent competitive intensity between them. This year, that competitiveness remains, although it's an entirely different type of atmosphere around the team. There's a little more trash talk, a lot more laughter come race time and a little less tension as the starting gun fires.

The results, however, are almost the same.

"It helps. Competition breeds excellence," Sickles coach Dan DeMoss said. "Sometimes, it's a pain. I've had to mediate sometimes between the two of them."

With Taylor running for the University of Tampa, the "they" DeMoss is referring to is Doromal and his newest green and white rival, Adam Sisler.

Sisler, a junior, has been running cross country for a little more than a year, but his free spirit has helped revamp not only the Sickles team, but Doromal's attitude heading into each race.

Instead of concentrating to the point of near silence before each race, Doromal finds himself talking smack on the starting line with Sisler. The two trash talk about who's the better runner, why the other guy isn't going to win, what's going to happen during the race, pretty much whatever happens to come into their minds while they're lined up.

"It's me and him every week," Doromal said. "He's out there talking right up until the gun goes off. "I got this race.' Stuff like that. It's a little bit different from when Brian was here."

The joking not only helps motivate the two, it keeps the atmosphere around the team light and serves as a source of amusement for anyone within earshot.

"It makes you calm down when you're out there because it's what you're used to," Sisler said. "We're always talking about who is whose wingman. It's kind of a Top Gun thing we have going. He won today, so I'm his wingman until the next race. Everybody's out there laughing. It gets pretty hilarious, but it relaxes you. You're not as tense when the race starts."

DeMoss said the rivalry even extends beyond whatever 3-mile course the two happen to be tearing up that day. He can tell stories of head-to-head practices, workouts, even meals between his top runners.

"Those two sit there, and they get competitive over garlic rolls at Olive Garden," DeMoss said. "Who can do the most. But I think it's healthy as long as they respect each other."

Respect is something neither runner lacks.

When Doromal missed more than a week with a virus, Sisler took it upon himself to be the team's leader. He was the No. 1 Gryphon for four consecutive weeks while Doromal worked his way back into shape.

When Doromal broke that streak by winning Wednesday's Western Conference meet, it seemed there was nobody happier than Sisler, who finished second. The respect is so two-sided, Doromal is already looking toward next year, when Sisler will be the senior and the Gryphons will be his team.

"Whenever you can drop a minute and a half in a year like (Sisler) has, it shows that you've worked hard," Doromal said. "Hopefully next year, he'll have the talent to have a good team."

Before that happens, Doromal and Sisler will try to lead the Gryphons to their second consecutive regional meet. That endeavor begins Tuesday at G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton, where Sickles will run in the Class 4A, District 4 meet. The top four teams advance to regions.

"Hopefully, we can get to state. I think we have a shot at it this year," DeMoss said. "I have a pack there. I just need it to move up a little bit further. I'm glad I have Dan back so I can have those two up there."

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