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Osceola's Irwin sets her mind to distance running

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Fri. April 1, 2011 | Andy Villamarzo

Osceola's Irwin sets her mind to distance running

SEMINOLE — It’s a difficult decision for some high school athletes to decide between two sports they love. Osceola junior distance runner Alexis Irwin had to make that choice about 21/2 years ago, when she came onto the cross country and track and field scene after playing club soccer since she was 10 years old.

Without knowing some of the basics about track, Irwin gave up soccer and became an exceptional distance runner, helping the Warriors go from a bunch of unknowns to one of the top girls distance groups in Pinellas County.

“I basically did track for a while to get myself ready for soccer,” Irwin said. “I had to make the tough decision between the two sports, and deciding to stick with track has ended up going well for me.

“The first year I wasn’t expecting to do too much of anything, but when I became a sophomore I started to excel and now as a junior I’m right where I want to be. This season we have a lot more depth on our team, so it’s been a good season all around.”

Like Irwin, several multi-sport girls who have joined the team have contributed immensely, including sophomore soccer player Angelina Kincey (800 meters, 4x400 relay) and freshman cheerleader Christina Tournant (long jump, pole vault). Several freshmen have also made an immediate impact, such as Mikera Williams (long jump, sprints), Zayven Reese (long jump, triple jump, hurdles) and Abigail Bauman.

The Warriors have reaped the benefits of new talent, winning the West Coast Invitational a few weeks ago and placing third last week at the annual Ed Wells Invitational.

“We have an awful lot of depth of very good athletes,” Osceola coach Peter Eagleson said. “I think some of the reasons why so many girls have come out for track this season is, No. 1 they’re great athletes and they knew we could have a successful season.

“There’s a lot of girls on the team who haven’t run track before. The freshmen that have come in are incredible athletes and everyone has just worked really hard this spring. Alexis and our other captain Danae DeVaul have really led this team well this season.”

Irwin has helped set the bar not only for her new teammates, but for herself. She has finished in the top five at almost every meet this season in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, including taking home the Runner of the Meet award at the West Coast Invitational. At the Ed Wells Invitational, she was first in the 800 (2:21), second in the 1,600 (5:13) and fourth in the 3,200 (11:53).

Irwin has done more than grasp the concept of track in her first three seasons — she has taken off with it.

“She’s just kind of a natural,” Eagleson said. “Alexis works as hard as anyone I’ve ever worked with. She just loves to run and has some God-given talent.”

Irwin’s decision to focus on track plus her hard work are beginning to pay off with interest from some major universities, including Florida, Florida State and North Florida.

“The University of Florida would be my dream pick because I grew up a Gators fan,” Irwin said. “I just never expected I’d be where I’m at with track right now. It’s been such a transformation from soccer, but the one thing that’s been a constant between the two sports is the running. I just love to run.”

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