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Loneliness of the long-distance runner

Ask Carmen DeHaan what it's like to be on a cross-country team, and she'll put you on hold. "I actually can't remember what it's like to be on a cross-country team," said DeHaan, the sole member of the Keswick Christian squad. "It's been a long time."

Four years to be exact, when Keswick had a team, when DeHaan was an eighth-grader.

Still, DeHaan has run some of the county's best times. She placed third in the state in Class A last year. At the Barnett Bank Florida Invitational in Gainesville this past weekend, DeHaan finished first in the Class A-2A division with a season-best 12 minutes, 45 seconds over two miles. Her running partner, Amy Goss of Osceola High, finished 10th overall in 12:35.

DeHaan keeps her edge by practicing with other teams around the county _ she ran with Seminole last year, and presently works out and attends meets with Osceola High, getting good in-practice competition from Goss.

It's the next best thing to being on a Keswick team, she said.

"When I'm running with someone else, I don't think of myself as being one person, I see myself as being on a team." She pauses and chuckles. "The rest of the people I run with, might not feel that way, but I do."

The Keswick junior still has to make sacrifices. She leaves school early to work out with up county Osceola. She makes up the missed work later, she said.

"It's kind of a pain for my parents, having to get in the car and drive me all over," she said. "Sometimes I forget to thank them. If I do, they'll remind me."

Actually, she said, her family got her into running. She was all set to play volleyball in middle school, but switched to cross country after a bit of cajoling from two running parents, and her older sister Marianne, then a member of the cross-country team.

But she agrees that marching, rather, running to a different drummer has given her a more independent outlook on life. She long ago gave up trying to recruit classmates for the team, concentrating instead on her own career.

"When I was in eighth grade, I was kind of a crowd type of person," she said. "I used to go out to the movies and stuff like that. But now all the guys in school think I'm weird. When I go out to meets, people are like, "Oh, you poor thing, you're here all by yourself.' But I think running is very rewarding."

The last surge of school interest was three years ago, she said. Eight people came out for the team in her eighth grade year, but it wasn't enough, she said.

"The coach wanted at least 10 people," she remembers. "It kind of made me mad, but I figured at the time I couldn't do anything about it."

That eighth grade year she concentrated on track. And she didn't even run distance. She was a sprinter.

"I ran the 440, (her best time was in the 63-second range, she says), and I kind of lucked out and made it to the districts. But I like cross country better than track. Running on a track is kind of boring."

She began cross country in ninth grade and did not have great times. Then in 10th grade, she improved, running a then-personal best 12:16, her first sub 13-minute time.

"I don't know what happened, now that I think about it," she said. "I guess I kind of got good."

Honor roll

BOYS

1. Brian Herring, St, Petersburg 14:39

2. Joe Palmer, Largo 15:31

3. Kenyada Jones, Gibbs 15:35

4. Sheldon Pennington, Largo 15:51

5. Bruce Ramcharran, Pinellas Park 15:53

6. Marc Moseley, St. Petersburg 16:02

7. Randy Najera, Boca Ciega 16:03

8. Zack Norsworthy, Largo 16:04

9. Jeremy Stepan, Countryside 16:06

10.Chris Lipscomb, Clearwater 16:12

GIRLS

1. Marjorie Schmidt, Dixie Hollins 11:46

2. Jennifer Vieira, Clearwater 12:04

3. Tasha Lee, East Lake 12:05

4. Kristin Conner, Lakewood 12:11

5. Wyleia Foster, Clearwater 12:16

6. Amy Goss, Osceola 12:30

7. Natalie Biniasz, Lakewood 12:33

8. Carmen DeHaan, Keswick 12:45

9. Britta Hansen, Clearwater 12:48

10.Tiffany Hill, Seminole 12:56

The honor roll is based on times reported in the St Petersburg Times. Coaches can also nominate athletes by calling 445-4169 after 11 a.m. weekdays.

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