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3 Citrus teams will be running on young talent

After sending several athletes to state meets last season, Citrus County high school track teams will look to rebound from the loss of several seniors. But a talented group of young athletes is looking to do just that.

At least one state-meet qualifier returns at each school.

In the box at right is a look at how Citrus girls and boys teams are shaping up.

_ Staff writer Joanne Korth and correspondent Terry Organ contributed to this report. A preview of Hernando County track teams will appear later.

Citrus Hurricanes

Classification: 3A, District 9

BOYS

1991 results: District champion.

Top returnees: James Pouncy (Jr., pole vault) and Jamie Moses (Sr., pole vault).

Head coach: Tom Darby.

Outlook: Darby said he is unsure of his roster this year, with several athletes still participating in winter sports, and therefore was reluctant to comment on the season. Pouncy and Moses advanced to the Region II meet last year in the pole vault.

GIRLS

1991 results: District runner-up.

Top returnees: Shirley Gabriel (Fr., high jump) and Kissy Simmons (Jr., hurdles).

Head coach: Tom Darby.

Outlook: Again, Darby was reluctant to comment during preseason. Last year, Gabriel was the only underclassmen to make it to the Class 3A state meet, placing sixth in the high jump by clearing 5 feet 2 on her final attempt. Simmons advanced to the Region II meet in the 100 hurdles.

Crystal River Pirates

Classification: 2A, District 5

BOYS

1991 results: District runner-up.

Top returnees: John Machowski (Sr., state meet qualifier in shot put and discus), Andrew Benefield (Sr., pole vault), Ernest Jones (Sr., running events).

Head coach: Norris Lightsey.

Outlook: Machowski, Benefield and Jones are the only returning lettermen for the Pirates, whose numbers and experience are thin going into the first of the season. "I keep telling people our team won't be formal until April," Lightsey said. "We have to wait for kids to finish basketball and wrestling and see who wants to come out." The Pirates do have individuals with new goals for this season: Machowski hopes to add 20 feet to his best discus toss last year of 141 feet, and Benefield will look to add 2 feet to his best vault of 11 feet 6.

GIRLS

1991 results: Last in district.

Top returnees: Cherie Winters (So., sprints) and Angie Catatano (Sr., hurdles).

Coaches: Norris Lightsey and Rodney Smith.

Outlook: The Pirates do not have a large number of girls out for track, so will be sharing some athletes from the softball team to complete its roster. "We're kind of thin, I guess," Lightsey said. "So whenever there's not a conflict with softball, some of them will participate in track." Junior Nicole Pantori will work on the 330 hurdles and some sprints, and sophomore Alicia King will work on the discus and shot put, Lightsey said. The coach also is encouraged by the potential of freshman Valerie Cacammais, a distance runner with cross country experience.

Lecanto Panthers

Classification: 2A, District 5

BOYS

1991 results: Fourth in district.

Top returnees: Phil Gelston (Sr., mile, two-mile), Kris Kania (Jr., 110 hurdles), Steve Proulx (So., shot, discus), Mike Sunman (Jr., pole vault), Andy Benson, (Sr., 400- and 800-meter runs).

Head coach: Tim Byrne.

Outlook: Byrne said he has 30 boys out for track now and expects that figure to climb to 40 once the winter sports are done. Crystal River transfer Ryan Penton, a junior hurdler and 400-meter runner, plus freshmen mile and 800-meter runner Derek Ellis and Keith Gordon will be strong additions. "We'll be competitive, but I'll have to see what the other schools have before I can give an estimate of where we'll stand in the district," Byrne said. "We should be strong in anything from one-fourth to 2 miles, and we'll also make some points in the high jump." Sprints are the area where Lecanto is most vulnerable, annd Byrne said he would like to see more strength in the field events.

GIRLS

1991 results: District runner-up.

Top returnees: Stacey Mericle (Sr., state-meet qualifier in high jump, 100- and 300-meter hurdles), Christine Scarano (Jr., 400-meter, 1600-meter relay, shot), Kathryn Bernabe (Sr., 300-meter hurdles, 400-meter relay, 1600-meter relay, triple jump.)

Head coach: Freddie Bullock.

Outlook: The Panthers will miss the talent and leadership of Marlene Gardner, a former state champion at 800 meters. But Gardner was the only senior last year on a team that finished second in the district meet to heavily favored Cocoa Beach. Bullock has a stable of young talent on what likely will be her largest squad with four seniors, five juniors, six sophomores and seven freshmen. The Panthers' strength will be the running events. "The way it looks now, if we can get out of the field events without being so far behind, we're going to have a shot at winning some meets," Bullock said.

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