'Strong' side tackle: USF's Chandler squats 700

Though he has earned a reputation for his culinary chops during his tenure at USF, Todd Chandler pulled off something Wednesday at breakfast time that few might find tough to digest or even swallow.

Fortunately for him, it was corroborated by witnesses and documented on an iPhone.

The 320-pound fifth-year senior defensive tackle squatted 700 pounds. Whether that's a USF football record couldn't immediately be determined. The clip can be seen here.

"That's a lot of weight on a man's back," said new Bulls strength coach Irele Oderinde, who spotted Chandler. "First, he did 600 and said, 'Coach, that was easy; put some more weight on it.'"

Oderinde, who had watched Chandler squat 585 three times the previous week, obliged. Chandler then squatted 635 with relative ease.

"He said, 'Coach, put 700 on the bar; I'm gonna do it,'" Oderinde recalled. "I said, 'Okay.'"

While Chandler's feat may not necessarily be a microcosm of the Bulls' across-the-board strength at this point, Oderinde said the overall weightroom commitment has been exceptional since his arrival earlier this summer. 

"They work, and that's one thing I can't complain about at all since I've been here," said Oderinde, a former Western Kentucky nose guard who was serving as West Virginia's football strength coach before being hired to replace Hans Straub in mid-May.

"These guys have busted their tails to get better. I believe we're tired of losing so we're trying to do something about that. ... I'm not saying we're the strongest team out there, but we've improved a little bit. That's a step in the right direction."

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Bulls' national title odds? Same as Auburn's last year (sort of)

Less than two weeks before the start of preseason camp, the odds of USF winning the 2014 national title are reaching Powerball-type probability.

At least according to one online betting service.

The Bulls are a 500-1 shot to capture college football's inaugural playoff, according to bovada.lv, which offers a variety of online wagering services including a sports book. While those odds may not seem unrealistic for a team in a non-power conference coming off a 2-10 season, they're five times longer than they were six months ago, before Willie Taggart signed the American Athletic Conference's top recruiting class.

On Jan. 7, USF's odds -- according to the same site -- were 100-1. So what happened?

"When we open odds in January, there is a lot of speculation on our part on how we expect our bettors to bet certain teams and we did feel that since they may be an improved team we would open them at 100-1 initially and take a few bets,"  Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley said through a publicist.

"After months of taking no money on them, they kept drifting off to 250-1 to 300-1 and now at 500-1, we still cannot write a bet on them. That said, we are always weary (sic) of going over 500-1 on teams, especially with the new playoff format, and considering (national title runner-up) Auburn was 500-1 preseason last year, we can really expose ourselves."

Alas, a sports book bound with silver lining.

USF's national title odds are the same as Auburn's last season.

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Ex-Bulls soccer coach Logan Fleck dies

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck passed away Monday morning.

Times file photo

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck passed away Monday morning.

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck, who led both teams simultaneously at one point in the mid-1990s, died Sunday of complications from diabetes.

Mr. Fleck, the men's coach at Stetson at the time of his death, was 54. He was preceded in death by his dad -- a former Lehigh University soccer coach -- and a younger brother, Derek, who died in 2003.

"Probably the three of them are playing a little one-on-one up in heaven right now," said Mary Beth Fleck, Mr. Fleck's younger sister.

Mr. Fleck began his career at USF as a men's assistant in the late 1980s, and took over the program in 1994. In three seasons, he compiled a 34-17 record, leading the '96 team to a share of the Conference USA crown and an NCAA Tournament berth.

He started the women's program in '95, leading the inaugural Bulls team to an 11-3 mark. In 12 seasons as women's coach, he amassed a 97-94-18 record with a Conference USA regular season title in '98.

He remains the women's program's winningest coach. Each spring, every Bulls player who earned a 3.0 GPA or better the prior semester got to line up and deliver a pie to Mr. Fleck's face. …

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My preseason AAC ballot

LB Reshard Cliett (#16) and the Bulls should double their win total from 2013. But will they triple it?

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

LB Reshard Cliett (#16) and the Bulls should double their win total from 2013. But will they triple it?

The following is my projected order of finish in the American Athletic Conference, submitted upon request to the league office earlier today. The official preseason poll will be released at the conference's media day July 29 in Newport, RI (Yes, football is here.).

To elicit debate, I've added a one-sentence rationale for each team's position in the standings.

1. Cincinnati.
'Cats are loaded offensively, and Tommy Tuberville's defenses are traditionally rugged

2. UCF
I waffled here because of the Knights' uncertainty at QB, but nine starters return on defense

3. East Carolina
For my money, Shane Carden's the league's best QB, and Justin Hardy's the top wideout

4. Houston
Lost amid the Cougars' pass-happy style is a defense that forced a nation-best 43 turnovers in '13

5. Tulane
The Green Wave, who made a bowl game last year, possess an outstanding secondary and promising freshman QB

6. USF
Stronger, speedier Bulls will at least double their '13 win total. I just don't know if they'll triple it.

7. SMU
Mustangs have some replenishing to do, but the newcomers are promising and June Jones knows his stuff

8. Temple
My sleeper team in the league. In their last five games of '13, Owls tied or led entering fourth quarter

9. Connecticut
All signs suggest new coach Bob Diaco will get it done in Storrs. But offseason loss of workhorse TB Lyle McCombs hurts

10. Memphis
Tigers made defensive strides in '13, but the offense scored more than 21 points only three times

11. Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane, 3-9 last year, must replace virtually their entire offensive backfield

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Bulls-Kentucky hoops showdown set for '15

After consecutive bye weeks, your friendly neighborhood USF beat writer is no longer beat. To the contrary, the figurative battery power has been restored to full capacity.

Time to brief you on the latest, and recap what transpired locally in July's first half"

* Apparently, the speculation about USF basketball coach Orlando Antigua facing old boss John Calipari has segued into reality. USF spokesman Steven Schoon confirmed Saturday he Bulls will face Kentucky as part of a doubleheader at Miami's American Airlines Arena on Nov. 27, 2015.

USF never has faced Kentucky in men's basketball. Antigua spent the past five seasons on Calipari's UK staff, and served with him one season (2008-09) at Memphis. ESPN first reported the event, which also will include a Memphis-Ohio State matchup, earlier Saturday.

* Former USF ace Sara Nevins came within two outs of a complete game in Team USA's 5-2 triumph against Canada in the final of the General Tire World Cup of Softball IX last weekend in Irvine, Calif. Nevins, who totaled four appearances in Team USA's seven games (all victories), notched a club-best 0.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.

The team currently is competing in the Canadian Open, where it has won six of its first seven through Saturday afternoon. Nevins has worked four tournament innings, striking out six and allowing a run on three hits.

* Bulls OL Thor Jozwiak, sidelined all of last season with a heart condition, is among 182 nationwide nominees for the AFCA Allstate Good Works Team. The team, composed of 11 Division I players and 11 total from the lower divisions, recognizes those who distinguish themselves with
charitable involvement and community service. 

A member of USF's football unity council and student-athlete advisory committee, Jozwiak has spoken at area schools, visited with ill kids at local children's hospitals and spoken with veterans injured in combat. The 22-player Good Works team will be announced in September. 

* The American Athletic Conference Football Summer Kickoff and Media Day will be held July 29 in Newport, RI. Each league coach, and players from each school, will attend. WR Andre Davis and LB Reshard Cliett are believed to be the Bulls' representatives, but that hasn't been confirmed by
USF. Players report for preseason camp Aug. 3 and begin practice the following day.

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Three Bulls on preseason watch lists

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Photo provided by USF

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Barely a week into July, USF already has three blips on the nation's preseason radar, with more likely to materialize.

Two Bulls seniors -- WR Chris Dunkley and C Austin Reiter -- and junior TE Sean Price have been named to preseason awards watch lists. Dunkley, one of the American Athletic Conference's top return specialists, is among 47 players on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in college football.

Meantime, Reiter is on the Rimington Trophy watch list --  presented each year to the nation's top center -- for the second consecutive season. Price is on the list for the Mackey Award given annually to the country's top tight end.

Dunkley, who has changed his number from 88 to 1 this season, averaged 22.6 yards per kick return and 24.2 per punt return in 2013. His junior-year highlights included 171 all-purpose yards at Houston, a 50-yard TD on a punt return against SMU, and a 13-yard TD on a reverse play at UCF.

Reiter, who has added more than 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame (to 295) this offseason, has started every game the last two years. In 2013, he tied for the team lead with 735 snaps played. …

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Former UF, Ocala standout Bradley to lead USF golf

Former University of Florida golf captain Steven Bradley, who helped lead the Gators to the 1999 SEC title, as been named men's coach at USF, the Bulls announced Friday.

An Ocala Forest graduate who helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 5A state title in 1994, Bradley replaces Chris Malloy, who stepped down after four seasons to become coach at Ole Miss, his alma mater.

"I was born in Bradenton and went to high school in Ocala, so I'm a Florida boy," said Bradley, who has spent the past three seasons as coach at Mercer. …

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Bulls add DE to '14 roster

Exactly one month before USF's players report for preseason camp, the Bulls have received an 11th-hour addition to one of their neediest defensive spots.

Former Virginia Tech signee Kevin Bronson, a three-star defensive end from Delray Beach who never enrolled in Blacksburg, will start Summer B classes at USF on Monday. He'll be eligible for this season, the school announced.

"Kevin is a great young man and a player whose size and athleticism fit very well in our defensive system," Coach Willie Taggart said in a USF news release. "We recruited him very heavily leading up to signing day and are happy that some things evolved and he now has the opportunity to be a Bull."

The evolution commenced less than a week ago, when Hokies coaches informed Bronson on Friday that he did not academically qualify. According to the Palm Beach Post, Bronson knew his college-entrance test scores didn't meet Virginia Tech standards, but he was made to believe it wouldn't be an issue.

"Virginia Tech did make it known that there was a possibility head coach Frank Beamer would have to go in front of a committee to speak on behalf of Kevin," Don Hanna, Bronson's coach at Delray Beach Village Academy, told the Post. …

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Woodie selected for NFL fellowship

Count USF linebackers coach Raymond Woodie among the Bulls enrolled in the Summer B session.

Only the 'B' stands for Bucs in his case.

Woodie, 40, was among four coaches chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants for the 2014 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. Selected by the Buccaneers, he'll work alongside the team's coaching and scouting staffs when Tampa Bay's training camp commences July 20.

His internship lasts two weeks. USF begins preseason drills Aug. 4.

“Wow, it’s a great opportunity,” Woodie said in a USF news release. “There is so much information you can learn, and I’m going to be there like a sponge. I want to absorb a lot, take a lot of notes and just come in and incorporate.”

Woodie, named the American Athletic Conference's top recruiter by two national scouting services earlier this year, engaged in a lengthy application process that began in April. Bulls coach Willie Taggart, who interned with the Eagles and Raiders early in his career; and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan gave hearty recommendations.

A former Palmetto High and Bethune-Cookman linebacker/safety, Woodie is entering his second season on USF's staff, and his fifth season as a Taggart assistant. …

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Herget misses cut on national team roster

The morning after his second shaky cameo for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, USF right-handed ace Jimmy Herget learned his brief stint with the club has ended.

Herget did not make the squad's final 24-man roster released Monday. On Sunday night, he allowed four runs in an inning in the team's 7-5 loss to the Peninsula Pilots -- a collegiate summer-league team -- in Hampton, Va.

It was his second appearance in the club's seven-game Red, White & Blue Tour through the Coastal Plain League. In Herget's only other appearance, six nights before, he allowed three runs on as many hits in two innings in an 11-6 win against the Thomasville (N.C.) HiToms.

His second appearance was delayed two nights by rain along the Eastern seaboard.

"Let it fuel the fire and rise up from it," Herget tweeted Monday morning.

A first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection this past season, Herget set a Bulls record with a season ERA of 1.26. His 1.48 is lowest in program history among players with at least 25 starts.

The Collegiate National Team embarks on an international slate of games, starting with Tuesday night's contest against Chinese Taipei in Cary, N.C.

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Bulls CB Durden transferring

USF CB Kenneth Durden, arrested in January on a marijuana-possession charge, told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday evening he's transferring to Division I-AA Youngstown State.

A fourth-year junior from Valdosta, Ga., Durden confirmed his departure via text message, adding he will be eligible for the 2014 season. He is expected to have two years' eligibility remaining.

A starter in 11 games last season, Durden recorded 32 tackles and an interception, and appeared poised to anchor a promising young Bulls secondary in 2014 prior to the drug charge.

According to an arrest affidavit, USF police were dispatched to his on-campus residence in mid-January in response to a complaint of possible drug use. Durden ultimately acknowledged to having cannabis in his room, the report stated, producing a clear bag of the substance later weighed at 21.7 grams.

He was indefinitely suspended by Bulls coach Willie Taggart, but was listed on the spring roster.

"He's got things he's got to take care of, much bigger than football," Taggart said following the first day of spring drills. "Those are his issues, and if he works those things out, he can come back and talk to us then." …

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NBA Draft bolsters Antigua's resume

As anticipated, Thursday night's NBA Draft did nothing to illuminate USF's basketball resume per se, but it added another couple of sparkles to Coach Orlando Antigua's. 

The bio of the Bulls new coach now can rightfully indicate he has coached 24 college players taken in the NBA Draft. The latest two: Kentucky forwards Julius Randle and James Young, picked by the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, in Thursday's first round.

In all, Antigua worked with 19 players ultimately selected in the NBA Draft during his five seasons as a John Calipari assistant at UK. That number is certain to increase by the 2015 draft. …

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With cuts looming, Herget hangs on for USA

USF right-handed ace Jimmy Herget, whose knack for rising to the occasion has been well chronicled in these parts, probably needs to levitate his game once more tonight for any shot at remaining on his current roster.

Herget is slated to be in the rotation for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team tonight when it travels to face the Florence (S.C.) Red Wolves, a college summer team. It would be Herget's second appearance for the squad, and likely his last before the roster is trimmed Sunday.

In his lone appearance to date, Herget worked two relief innings, allowing three runs on as many hits (including a three-run homer) in Monday's 11-6 victory against the Thomasville (N.C.) HiToms. He has worked the fewest innings of any of the 17 pitchers on the current roster, which includes fellow All-American Athletic Conference pitchers Jake Lemoine (Houston) and Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville).

It is believed the team, coached by Arkansas' Dave Van Horn, will carry 12 position players and 12 pitchers. Its latest results and stats can be found here.

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USF athletics: The year in review

A day after his mom's funeral, Bulls DE Ryne Giddins (#97) came up huge in a win against Cincinnati.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A day after his mom's funeral, Bulls DE Ryne Giddins (#97) came up huge in a win against Cincinnati.

In a school year rife with grimace-inducing images, the final snapshot was a keeper. When triple jumper Matthew O'Neal and high jumper Courtney Anderson ascended their respective medal stands to receive All-America recognition at the recent NCAA Championships, the Bulls' 2013-14 athletic season formally concluded. Depending on one's perspective, it was a year to savor or shred. While the most prominent sports teams on campus (football, men's hoops, baseball) struggled to achieve mediocrity, others (tennis, men's soccer) flourished in their grim shadows. Meantime, upheaval became trendy. Stan Heath and Doug Woolard left. Roberto Cid and Courtney Williams arrived. Unlikely stars emerged from out of the blue (Marvin Kloss), while new coaches emerged from out of the Bluegrass (Orlando Antigua). Dismal? Yes, at times. Dull? Never. It all warrants one last lengthy reflection before embarking on a new year. From the superlatives to the sound bites to the surreal moments, here's your 2013-14 nutshell, in awards fashion.

Male Athlete of the Year
Matthew O'Neal, Soph., Soccer/Track and Field
Sorta tough to argue with a two-sport athlete who performs best at the most critical stage. A defender on the Bulls soccer team that allowed one goal in the American Athletic Conference tournament, O'Neal placed fourth at the NCAAs in the triple jump with a school-record effort (53 feet, 2.5 inches).
Also in the conversation: Kloss (football), Cid (tennis), Chase Koepka (golf)

Female Athlete of the Year
Sara Nevins, Sr., Softball
This potential future Olympian ended arguably the greatest softball career in USF lore as the program's career leader in several categories including wins (101), strikeouts (1,103), saves (20) and opponent batting average (.170). In nearly 26 innings at the NCAA Regionals, Nevins allowed nine hits and three runs.
Also in the conversation: Anderson (track), Erin Fairs (volleyball), Williams (basketball)

Coach of the Year
George Kiefer, Men's Soccer
Kiefer's clubs have maintained such a solid level of consistency, one loses an appreciation for them over time. Behind a stellar back line, the Bulls (8-4-9) won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament and reached the NCAAs for the seventh year in a row.
Also in the conversation: Matt Hill (men's tennis), Agustin Moreno (women's tennis)

Play of the Year
Among the few endearing moments provided by the men's basketball team was one that made SportsCenter's Top 10. In case you haven't seen Victor Rudd's posterizing of Rutgers F Junior Etou at least a dozen times, here it is.

Snub of the Year
In 2113, we'll still be scratching what's left of our scalps over Kloss' omission from the All-American Athletic Conference team. A Lou Groza Award finalist, Kloss led the nation with 11 field goals of 40 or more yards, and set a school record by converting 13 consecutive field goals at one point. Candidly, we believe this snub harmed the All-AAC team's overall credibility.
Also in the conversation: USF women's basketball team denied a spot in NCAA Tournament

Most Poignant Moment
A day after burying his mom, who had waged a valiant battle with uterine cancer, Bulls senior DE Ryne Giddins helped preserve his team's first win of the year. With USF leading Cincinnati by 13 with 6:45 to play, Giddins and DeDe Lattimore stuffed Tion Green on a fourth-and-inches play at
USF's 10-yard line. The Bulls held on, 26-20. "I was so impressed with (Giddins)," Coach Willie Taggart said.

Most Awkward Moment
While the discovery of Steve Masiello's embellished resume garnered the most national attention during USF's prolonged basketball coaching search, the immediate aftermath may have been more embarrassing for the Bulls. After Masiello disqualified himself, new Bulls AD Mark Harlan immediately turned his attention to UNLV's David Rice, meeting with the Runnin' Rebels alumnus in Tampa. Less than 24 hours after that meeting, Rice agreed to a contract extension with UNLV. In the vernacular of the 25-and-under demographic: USF got played.

Most Awkward Moment, Part Deux
On the same day USF's most bitter rival celebrated the biggest football win it its history, the Bulls countered by celebrating...wait for it...their mascot. On New Year's Day, several dignitaries including Taggart and Stan Heath were summoned to the Selmon Center to honor Rocky the Bull as winner of the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hours later, UCF demolished Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. The cheers -- and cackles -- reverberated all the way from Oviedo.

Lasting (or last) words
"I told my players, it's time for this program to get to a (NCAA) regional and compete for conference championships. We've got a beautiful facility, we've got good players and can't accept anything less than that. We've got to raise the bar here." -- former baseball coach Lelo Prado,
whose team finished 27-31

Have a good feeling that something special is going to happen tonight. I hope no one misses it -- Bulls RHP Jimmy Herget on Twitter, hours before taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 2-1 win against Connecticut
 
Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority. -- Bulls strength coach Hans Straub on Twitter, shortly after the 49ers took former USF DE Aaron Lynch in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Straub resigned days later

"My guess is they will do things that have never been done before at South Florida." -- Kentucky coach John Calipari upon USF's hiring of Antigua, one of his longtime assistants

Predictions for 2014-15
* Football team more than doubles its '13 win total, but falls just shy of a bowl berth.

* Behind first-team All-AAC G Courtney Williams, the women's basketball team earns second NCAA Tournament berth in three years

* Cid earns second consecutive All-American berth after another sparkling run in NCAA men's singles tourney

* Men's soccer team earns eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, winning at least one game in the postseason. For good measure, the Bulls women also reach NCAAs

* Only six months into the job, Harlan reaches a milestone, commemorating the 1,000th time he's asked whether USF will build an on-campus football stadium

* Two names you hear a lot: Price and McFarland

* Two names you barely hear: Eastman & Beaudine

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Could Olympics be in Nevins' future?

Former USF ace Sara Nevins again will represent her country this summer on the USA Softball Women's National Team.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former USF ace Sara Nevins again will represent her country this summer on the USA Softball Women's National Team.

Arguably no appendage in USF sports history has been more priceless than Sara Nevins' left arm.

It has collected wins by the hundreds and strikeouts by the thousands. It has occupied a World Series circle and collected more records than a disco-era DJ. If and when the USF Athletics Hall of Fame gets up and running again, Nevins is a first-ballot lock.

Which is to say, she's off to a nice start.

"College is the minor leagues, in all honesty, when it comes to softball," Bulls coach Ken Eriksen said Monday.

But the big leagues have beckoned again. On Sunday, Nevins, 22, learned she has made the USA Softball Women's National Team for a second consecutive season. The 17-player squad, coached by Eriksen, will compete in four different countries this summer, culminating with the ISF Women's World Championship in the Netherlands in August.

If she continues developing her repertoire at the world's highest level, and if politics don't infringe upon softball returning to the Olympic docket, Nevins has a shot at representing her country in 2020 in Tokyo.

"Coach Ken always says that the prime time for Olympic athletes is between like, 28 and 32 or 34, so I'll be up there," said Nevins, who logged more than 30 innings for the U.S. in international play last summer. "It's in what, six years? ... I hope to keep playing and I'm pretty sure (softball) will be back in 2020."

Eriksen shares the optimism, saying softball has an approval rating of "better than 60 percent" within the International Olympic Committee, which votes on whether to re-instill the sport in December. Combine that with the immense popularity of softball and baseball in Tokyo, and the planets seem to be aligning for a sport that hasn't been played in the Olympics since 2008.

"Six years from now, (Nevins) will be 28 years old, right in her prime-time stuff," Eriksen said.

Some might suggest she's already there. During recent team exhibitions and workouts, Eriksen said some players appeared mesmerized by Nevins' velocity, which accounted for 101 career wins and 1,103 strikeouts -- both school records -- at USF.

In the 2013 World Cup, she fanned 14 in 12.1 innings for the silver-medal-winning U.S., which finished second to Japan.

"First, you've got to play on the team and wear the three letters across your chest just to get comfortable," Eriksen said. "Then you have a chance to get good, then you have a chance to get really, really good.

"Right now Sara has a chance to get good in international ball. She proved last year, getting her feet wet against Japan, Australia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, she did very, very well."

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