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Packers still team to beat at conference championships

With one day of preparation left before the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, Largo cross-country coach Brent Haley spent part of Wednesday going over his team's revised goals. "In the past we've looked at this as the second most important meet of the year," he said. "With state being the most important. But since we're not contenders for the state title, it's the most important. Our goal is to win the conference, district and finish in the top five at state."

Largo's boys have won 20 out of the last 22 PCAC championships, including the last four. Countryside won in 1985, and St. Petersburg won in 1975. But, Haley said, this year the Packers are "far from a cinch" to capture the team title. And the Packers' top competition at the Crescent Lake course likely will come from a team coached by a former Largo runner.

Clearwater coach Dave Koehler ran under Haley in 1974 and '75. And the Tornadoes placed third in the Largo Invitational without Adam Miller, their No.

2 runner, who will be back for the PCAC meet.

"It would feel funny if I were 22 years old and just four years out of high school," Koehler said. "But I'm 32 years old and I've been out for 15 years. I like to think our kids are very disciplined, and I guess I learned discipline from coach Haley."

Seminole also poses a stiff challenge to the defending conference champions. Individually, the favorites are St. Petersburg's Brian Herring, Largo's Joe Palmer and Gibbs' Kenyada Jones.

Clearwater's girls, ranked second in the Class 4A state poll behind Longwood Lyman, is considered a favorite to win a second straight PCAC title.

"I think we have a lot stronger team than we did last year," Tornadoes coach Kathy Biddle said. "Our runners at the number four through seven positions are stronger."

Seminole's girls, led by Tiffany Hill, and Lakewood (1988 PCAC champion) with Kristin Connor and Natalie Biniasz, also should place high.

Individually, Dixie Hollins' Marjorie Schmidt is still the only county girl to have gone under 12 minutes this year. A freshman, Schmidt has done it four times this season, said coach Monte Hoge.

"And Crescent Lake is her favorite course," Hoge said. "That's where she ran her best time (11:46 at the Down County girls meet on Oct.


Schmidt, Clearwater's Jennifer Vieira and East Lake's Tasha Lee are among the top individuals.