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Champions share diverse talents

Clearwater Central Catholic junior Kevin Lyons keeps a step ahead of the competition with tireless preparation.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2001

Kevin Lyons never looks back.

As soon as he crosses the finish line of one race, he's thinking about the next one. That's why Lyons gets up at 5 a.m., even when it's oh so tempting to hit the snooze button one more time.

Somebody might be gaining.

The Clearwater Central Catholic junior ran away from the pack this season. After finishing 14th at the 2000 Class 2A state meet, Lyons was relentless in his preparation for 2001. He logged 80 to 90 miles per week during the summer. He pushed himself by training in North Carolina and California. He entered elite meets throughout the country.

The work paid off.

Lyons won six times this season, including the Largo Invitational, which he ran in a personal-best 15 minutes, 1 second. He also won the district and regional meets, and finished fifth at the state meet at the Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa in 15:44.

"I didn't think I would get to 15:01," Lyons said.

"I had in my mind around 15:15 or so. At the Keswick Invitational (Sept. 27th), I ran a 15:30 and I was holding back in that race. It felt really easy. I thought I might have a good year then."

About the only race Lyons wasn't satisfied with was the state meet. Despite his top five finish, Lyons said he didn't feel right. He set a goal before the season, and he didn't hit it.

"I wanted to finish in the top three," he said.

"It was just one of those days. My legs felt heavy. Sometimes that happens."

It could have been worse.

Lyons was diagnosed with asthma when he was young and must use an inhaler before running each day. He also takes two medications to ensure the asthma stays in check.

Lyons had an attack last season that forced him out of a race. He changed medications and hasn't had a problem since.

"If I didn't use the inhaler or the medication I could probably only run a mile," Lyons said.

"I start to get shortness of breath. It's not good. But I haven't had any problems since I changed medications."

Obviously not.

Lyons took a little more than a week off after the state meet, but he's back on his training regime. He'll run in a few meets during the holidays, and in the spring, he'll run the 1,600 and 3,200 meters for the CCC track team.

"He trains so hard," CCC coach Jeff Righter said.

"Each year, he's chopped off 50 seconds, which is a lot. There's not a whole lot of runners who are going to match his endurance, commitment and discipline."

Lyons has improved steadily since his freshman year, when he was 39th at the state meet. With continued training and perhaps a little luck, Lyons might get the state championship he covets his senior year.

"I know burnout is common among runners, but I haven't felt it yet," Lyons said.

"I still enjoy running. It's a risk I have to take.

"I'd like to win a state championship, and I know I have to train hard to do that."

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