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Fla. Southern snags volleyball standout

On Wednesday, the national signing day, athletes committed themselves in writing to college scholarships. Before Wednesday, athletes could change their mind, even if they had made a verbal commitment. Cheryl McQuown was one of those changing plans at the last minute.

Originally destined to play volleyball at Furman University, McQuown announced Wednesday she will accept a scholarship to Florida Southern College.

McQuown, an all-state player at Clearwater High, announced Monday that she would sign with Furman (Greensville, S.C.) But then Florida Southern coach Lois Webb called, and McQuown visited the Lakeland campus on Tuesday. That day, McQuown said, she changed her decision.

"Their offer was so tremendously better," said McQuown, a honor student who will receive a combination athletic/academic scholarship.

- KEVIN THOMAS Marauders, Devils face trips across state for section matches

ST. PETERSBURG - The Clearwater Central Catholic and St. Petersburg boys soccer teams will travel to southeast Florida on Friday for sectional championship games.

The Marauders (25-1-3), who dismantled Palmetto 7-0 Tuesday for the Class 2A, Region V title, will play at North Palm Beach-Benjamin at 3:30 p.m. for the 2A-Section III crown. The host Buccaneers (11-3-2) beat Fort Myers-Bishop Verot 2-1 in Tuesday's Region VI final.

The Green Devils (19-4-2) nipped Jesuit 3-2 in Tuesday's 3A-Region V game and will play at West Palm Beach-Wellington, starting at 7 p.m., for the Section III championship. Wellington (16-7-1) slipped past Fort Myers-Cypress Lake 3-2 Tuesday to win the Region VI crown.

Friday's winners advance to their respective state tournaments, which will be played Feb. 23-24 at sites to be announced.

Admission to each sectional game is $3.

- TIM LOONEY Lakewood's Haislett ranks among top 15 in the world in three events

ST. PETERSBURG - In 1989, Nicole Haislett was widely heralded as one of America's best freestyle swimmers. Two months into 1990, the Lakewood senior is garnering acclaim as one of the best in the world.

Haislett, a four-time state titlist who holds the national high school 100-yard freestyle record, last year turned in some of the world's fastest times at sprint freestyle distances - the 50, 100 and 200 meters.

According to information in the February issue of Swimming World magazine, Haislett swam the fifth-fastest 50 free time (0:25.79), the seventh-fastest 100 free time (0:55.99) and the 13th-fastest 200 free time (2:01.43) recorded by a female swimmer in 1989.

Haislett's time in the 50 is .81 seconds off the world record, set in 1988 by China's Yang Wenyi.

- TIM LOONEY Senior wrestling champs will be invited to first national tourney

PITTSBURGH - A post-season tournament for state high school wrestling champions - the nation's first - will be held April 7-8 at the University of Pittsburgh.

Invitations to the event, to be called the National High School Wrestling Championships, will be sent to all seniors who have won a state scholastic championship.

National tournaments are held each summer for high school wrestlers by USA Wrestling, the sport's national governing body, but participants qualify through local and regional tournaments and are not restricted to state champions.

Champions will be determined in the National Federation of State High School Associations' recommended weight classes: 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189 and 275 pounds.

The first session will be Saturday, April 7 at 9 a.m. The finals will be April 8 at 6:30 p.m. Bucknell University coach Bob Ferraro and Joe Fleming, an attorney in Palm Beach, are coordinating the tournament.

- ASSOCIATED PRESS Girls basketball district play starts at Northeast, Pinellas Park

ST. PETERSBURG - Two Class 4A girls basketball district tournaments start today at Northeast and Pinellas Park.

The 4A-District 8 tournament opens at 6 p.m. at Northeast with Sarasota playing Dixie Hollins. In the 8 p.m. game, Northeast plays Cape Coral. The championship is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. At Pinellas Park, the 4A-District 7 tournament begins at 6 p.m. with Dunedin playing Seminole. In the 8 p.m. game, Countryside plays Largo. The title game is Saturday at 6 p.m. In other tournaments today: The 3A-District 11 tournament resumes at St. Petersburg with quarterfinal games at 2:30, 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. The 2A-District 11 tournament opens at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney with a single game at 7 p.m. The lone Pinellas entry, Clearwater Central Catholic, opens at 6 p.m. on Friday.

The A-District 10 tournament resumes at Bradenton Christian with

quarterfinal games at 2:45, 4:30, 6:15 and 8 p.m. Admission each day to a district tournament is $3.

For complete schedule, please see 2C.

- STAFF REPORT Conference win 'only the beginning' for Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK - After Pinellas Park's girls basketball won its first Pinellas County Conference championship, 77-68 over Lakewood last week, Patriots coach Ed Jackson said, "This is only the beginning. We have a long way to go before we prove ourselves."

The Patriots, who are ranked No. 2 in the Class 4A state poll with a 29-1 record, are hosts for the 4A-District 7 tournament beginning today. The only competition for the Patriots may come from Clearwater, which has been ranked in the 4A state poll but is not this week.

"Sure, it's nice to win the conference," guard Antonette Preston said. "But now it's time to really turn on the jets."

Pinellas Park, state runner-up last season, is averaging 88.5 points per game.