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Excellence shines through '90-91 school year

Through science fairs and district sports playoffs, art shows and academic competition, Hernando County students excelled during the 1990/91 school year. Several won full scholarships to the nation's military academies and universities.

At Brooksville's Hernando High, the county's oldest high school, football star Marlin Green was awarded a coveted appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

"He's an exceptional student, a very nice person, and highly respected by students and the faculty," said Gretchen Pingley, the school's senior guidance counselor.

Two more Hernando students won full ROTC scholarships _ Heather Masson at Norwich University in Connecticut and David Gehrich to Notre Dame.

At Central High, the county's newest high school, Alex DeGracia earned an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he hopes to play football.

"They were very impressed with his tapes on football," said Robert McClelland, Central's senior guidance counselor.

And at Springstead, built in the mid 1970s to serve students on the county's burgeoning west side, Susan Stanonis won a four-year Founder's Scholarship for full tuition, room and board at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C..

There were dozens of other scholarship winners among the county's 700 plus graduates worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money was donated by local area organizations throughout the county, said Springstead senior guidance counselor Susan Thornton.

"We were pleased. I have to tell you that what the community does for our students is amazing. Some organizations are giving away as much as two, three, four or $5,000 dollars."

County science fair participants once again held their own in district, state and international competition. Central High sophomore Stephen Barton designed his own "wet" submarine, and later this month will take part in the second international human-powered submarine race in Riviera Beach.

In athletics, there were standout performances in several sports, including winning seasons by all three of the county's varsity football teams.

Springstead High wrestler John Lane went all the way to take the Class 3A state championship in the 145-pound weight division, while Hernando High weight lifter Damon Sanders captured the Class 3A state title in the 220-pound weight class.

Two Springstead seniors won the Tom Varn Award for the county's outstanding female and male student-athletes _ Sharron Washington, who won several academic scholarships and will play basketball at Coppin State College in Baltimore, and baseball and football star John Iarussi.

Washington led her girl's basketball team to its first winning season ever.

High school girls soccer began its first season in Hernando County this year at Springstead, with the team posting a 4-6 record, said Springstead athletic director Tony Zefiretto. Meanwhile the boys soccer team posted a 16-2-2 record, the best in its history, and the boys cross-country team placed second in the Class 3A state-championship meet.

Among athletic highlights at Hernando, athletic director Ernie Chatman said, the softball team won a district championship. It later lost to Tampa Plant 10-3 in the regional title game and settled for 23-3 overall record.

Meanwhile, Hernando's wrestling team had its best season ever and its football team won the first Hernando County Championship Bowl.

This year, Central High had its first full senior class ever, some 200 students compared with just 70 last year.

Athletic director Vernon Turner said it was only the second year of varsity sports at the school.

"A lot of people lose sight of this fact. A lot of people thought we should just come in and compete immediately, but that's a pretty awesome task," he said.

Still, Central's sports team achieved several notable accomplishments.

Among highlights this year, Turner said, was the football team's 7-4 record in a season dedicated to former Bears standout Chuck Hackney, who was paralyzed last summer during an accident at Buccaneer Bay water park at Weeki Wachee Spring.

Central's boys basketball team doubled its number of victories from last season to 18 this season, and its golf team had its first winning season, Turner said.

And not to be outdone, Hernando Christian Academy, which graduated only a dozen seniors last week, took advantage of its new gym to hone its girl's basketball team to a razor-fine edge. The Lions were 1991 varsity champions of the Florida Christian Conference.

Staff writer Tim Buckley contributed to this report.