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By JOHN C. COTEY and GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000
HUDSON -- The Port Orange Spruce Creek coach thought his team won. The Flagler Palm Coast thought his team won. And Glenn Cable of Ridgewood ... well, he thought his team won, too.
They were all wrong. The Gulf girls, by placing three runners in the top 13, stunned the field by capturing the Class 3A, District 3 title Saturday at Veteran's Memorial Park.
So incredulous were the teams that did not win that a flurry of number crunching took place at the wall where the results were posted. One parent screamed the places had been mis-tabulated (she was wrong). Another questioned the addition (wrong, too).
It was that close and that correct. The Bucs won with 73 points followed by Spruce Creek at 74, Palm Coast at 76 and Ridgewood at 78.
About the only coach who didn't seem surprised was the Bucs' Dean Lofton.
"I knew we were going to win," said Lofton, who last won a district title in 1997. "I've been feeling it all week. The girls' workouts, they were just easily blowing the times I was giving them away."
In the boys race, it was close but not as much so as Palm Coast won with 56 points with Port Orange Atlantic in second (60) and Ridgewood third (76).
The top 15 individuals and top six teams moved on to regionals. In the girls race, Gulf's Barbara Carr was second to New Smyrna Beach's Kay Lennon, and teammates Cindy Wade and Melissa Dattoli took seventh and 13th, respectively. Because Land O'Lakes' Debra Mann was fifth and her score does not count because the Gators didn't have a full team, Wade scored six points and Dattoli 12.
Injured for most of the season with a pulled groin, it was Dattoli's finish that made the difference. While coaches preach the pack mentality, the 4-5 Buc finishers were outscored by each of the nearest three teams' 4-5 runners. But Dattoli's finish ensured that she, Carr and Wade had a two-point edge over Spruce Creek's top three, 16 points over Palm Coast's and 14 over Ridgewood.
"The little girl made all the difference," said Cable of Gulf's 4-foot-10, 85-pound freshman.
The Rams placed Lizzy Leigh fourth, and Lizzie Sheridan was 12th.
In the boys race, the state's top-ranked runner, Palm Coast's Matt Cianciulli, won in 15 minutes, 25 seconds. Ridgewood's Jim Vitale was second in 16:01 while teammates Francis Casey, Tanner Wolfe and Brett Martin finished 15th, 16th, and 17th, respectively.
Mann and teammate Scott Habershaw qualified as individuals. -- JOHN C. COTEY
BROOKSVILLE -- Central's girls and Citrus' boys graduated their top runner from last year. Both had key runners sidelined with injuries. That didn't keep either from defending its title at Central. Citrus put three runners in the boys top five and Central had four girls in the top 13 as both won easily.
Bears coach Lisa Bilodeau said her team's fourth consecutive district title was as much a testament to their relative health as it was speed.
"At this point in the season, getting seven healthy runners on the line is probably the biggest factor in anything," Bilodeau said. "We ran well today. I'm very happy. We've come out the past two weeks with all the heart and their legs under them."
Hernando's John Emerson, who won the conference title last week, paced the boys field in hot, humid conditions, winning by 11 seconds in 16:06.
"It was humid, and we had homecoming. And it's been a rough week, so I didn't know how I was going to perform today," Emerson said.
"I gutted it out, and I think I ran a pretty good race."
Citrus' Lauren Gaffney earned her first individual title, pulling away from Springstead's Lindsay Boldt and conference champion Erin Courtney of Central to win by seven seconds in 19:51.
"I haven't been anywhere close to (Courtney) before last week," said Gaffney, a standout swimmer who will compete in the district swim meet in Gainesville on Tuesday.
"It's my senior year, and I decided I wanted it. Thankfully, my legs carried me there."
Citrus' boys team wasn't at full strength as C.J. Bryant sat out with a sore calf, but the Hurricanes still had three of the top five runners in Logan Bollenback (second, 16:17), Tony Lyons (fourth, 16:25) and Rick Miller (fifth, 16:52).
"I thought we ran well considering we didn't have C.J. in the mix," coach Bruce Nelson said. "Just a great run for Logan. He's been getting better every week. Tony ran another good race, and Rick ran a super race again. It's tough to beat you when you can pack three into the top five."
Central's boys had four of the top 12, but six Citrus runners finished before the Bears could close out their scoring with Kurt Lee, the fifth Central runner in at 17:41.
The top eight teams advanced to Saturday's Class 2A, Region 2 meet in Titusville, where the state meet will be held a week later. Springstead's Michael Umholtz and Crystal River's Rebecca Thielemann advanced as individuals. -- GREG AUMAN
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