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Utley leads Gators' quest for swim title

After three straight years as the runner-up in the Southeastern Conference swimming championships, the University of Florida _ featuring Admiral Farragut graduate Bob Utley _ goes for the brass ring this weekend at the University of Alabama. Coach Randy Reese will be relying on Utley in no fewer than seven events, said Craig Poore, the men's swimming sports information director.

"Bob helped us win five events last year, including the 100 and 200 freestyle," said Poore, "and he'll probably swim an individual-medley event and a fourth relay event this year. Bob is going to be absolutely crucial to our success at the meet."

Pressure situations are nothing new to the 19-year-old sophomore from St. Petersburg, who was the Times' Swimmer of the Year in 1988. He won Class 3A state championships his sophomore and junior years for Lakewood High in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles. In his senior year at Farragut, he won the 200-yard freestyle and set a state record (1 minute, 38:41 seconds). He also set a record for the first leg of the state 400-yard freestyle relay (45.0).

At the 1988 Olympic Trials, he placed 15th in the 200-yard freestyle and also competed in the 200 IM.

Asked if his plans include the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Utley said: "I believe by then I should be one of the top swimmers in the world."

The Times' Swimmer of the Year in 1988, Craig Ridenhour, a Boca Ciega graduate, is also expected to contribute to the Gators' cause at Tuscaloosa this weekend. He was a high school All-American in the 100-yard backstroke as a senior, as well as salutatorian of his class.

The third Pinellas County member of the men's team is Alyn Towne, a freshman freestyle sprinter from Shorecrest Prep. His best time is 24:03 in the 50-yard free, the event he placed second in at the junior nationals last year.

Both Ridenhour and Towne swam for St. Petersburg Aquatics where their coach was Fred Lewis.

Another former Times Swimmer of the Year, Lorraine Perkins, a 1987 graduate of Largo, also is on the women's team at Florida.

Perkins is three-time SEC champion and a six-time All-American in individual and relay events specializing in the backstroke.

This year she has led off the 400 medley relay team with the best time in the nation so far this year: 3:44.89. The NCAA qualifying mark is 3:50.34, so the Lady Gators will be in the national championships.

Perkins is also a veteran of the 1988 Olympic Trials. She placed 20th in the 100 backstroke.

Having won eight of the last nine SEC titles, the Lady Gators are expected to successfully defend at this week's championship meet.

Notes: Boca Ciega graduate Emily Musgrave, a freshman at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., took third place in the 1,000 freestyle recently in a meet with NCAA Division III rivals Augustana and Illinois Wesleyan. Beth Elias, Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year in 1989, tied a school record at Elon College this season scoring three goals in one game. She is a Seminole graduate where she broke the county career scoring record. Keswick graduate Julie Porter, a senior at Furman, was named to the All-Southern Conference volleyball second team. She's a sports medicine major with a 4.0 GPA. Don Zondervan (Dunedin) and Heather McGhee (Lakewood) will represent Georgia at this weekend's SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships at UF. Pat McDonough (Largo) and Stacey Simmons (Dunedin) will represent the Gators. And Clearwater graduate Ken Hayslett is scheduled to vault for the Auburn Tigers.

Gibbs graduate Kim Fagen was the second women at Gasparilla in the seven-county Tampa Bay area. Her time for 9.3 miles was 58:10. Over at USF on the baseball field, Dunedin High graduate Ken Demske is leading the nationally ranked Bulls in hitting with a .625 batting average. The senior leftfielder legged out a triple in Wednesday's 16-2 rout of Bethune-Cookman. Pitcher Dave White, out of Seminole High, was roughed up by Saint Leo in his first outing and was removed in the second inning.