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By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
INVERNESS -- Logan Bollenback wasn't himself when cross country season began -- mentally or physically.
The well-conditioned, razor-sharp athlete who finished fifth in the previous year's Class 2A state meet was gone. In his place stood an unmotivated runner who had lost most of his self-confidence and all of his edge.
"He was awful," Citrus coach Bruce Nelson said.
Strong words, but accurate.
Every time Bollenback tied his laces, he was a threat to finish near the top. His times consistently were in the 16-minute range.
At state, he put an exclamation point on a strong sophomore season by finishing in 15 minutes, 57 seconds.
But Bollenback's high was short-lived.
In the spring, after training hard for several months, he faltered in the state track and field meet and finished a disappointing 14th in the 2-mile.
"That had a bad effect on me," Bollenback said. "I thought I had trained hard and did the work that I needed to do, but I had a bad day and it just happened to be at the state meet."
Depressed over his poor performance, Bollenback found himself unmotivated.
He started the summer with a routine that mostly consisted of light runs, but after sustaining a calf injury, he quit training.
"The main fact was that I wasn't motivated," Bollenback said.
He arrived at cross country workouts at the start of this season in poor shape. He tired early, and instead of running 16-minute times, he usually finished in 18 minutes or worse.
"I had eight or nine guys beating him," Nelson said.
"He went from fifth in the state to not being fifth on our team. He'd get out there and start running like he's capable of running, but then he'd run out of gas after the second mile," the coach said.
The turning point came after a sluggish opening-race performance in which he finished two minutes behind the leaders. An embarrassed Bollenback quickly regained the desire to train.
"I definitely knew after that first race it was going to be a long season," he said. "I knew I needed to do some hard work. It was extremely frustrating."
With every week, he became stronger physically, sharper mentally. His times improved dramatically.
Six weeks after failing to make a blip on the radar screen in the Citrus County meet, Bollenback finished seventh in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship with a time of 15:54 -- 32 seconds out of first.
In last weekend's Class 2A, District 4 meet, he was second (16:17) against a strong field. The race marked the first time this season that Bollenback had been the Hurricanes' top runner.
"I was happy with my performance, but I feel like I can improve on my runs in the next two races," Bollenback said. "I think I can do better. I'm just coming into shape."
For Citrus, the timing is perfect.
Ranked second in 2A by Florida Runners, the Hurricanes are the favorites in Saturday's Region 2 meet in Titusville.
The following weekend, they will travel back to Titusville for state, in which they hope to win the program's first title. Bollenback hopes to have the type of impact he had in last year's season-ending event.
"My goal is not only to run cross country," Bollenback said, "but to be a state champion."
SPORTS: Cross country, track.
NOTABLE: Bollenback helped lead the Hurricanes to a fourth-place finish in the 1999 Class 2A state cross country meet. Individually, he was fifth with a time of 15 minutes, 57 seconds.