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Ridgewood boys, Leto girls win

With Ridgewood and Tampa Leto each placing six boys in the top 12 of Saturday's boys race at the Ram Invitational, it was more like a dual meet than a five-school race.

Leto boys coach Bob Ennis even called it one.

"As dual meets go, my boys ran well," he said. "That's why we came over here, to run against Ridgewood. Now we're 0-4 against them this year."

This is true. Despite placing five boys place in the top nine, Class 4A Leto again fell to the Class 3A Rams, who placed four boys in the top five. Ridgewood scored 22 points to Leto's 33.

Jeremy Sample and Matt Leigh finished first and second respectively for Ridgewood, both breaking the 3-mile course record of 15 minutes, 46 seconds, set by former Rams runner Alex Martinez. Sample, a junior, finished in 15:31, followed by Leigh in 15:36.

Shannon Bolls led Leto to a team victory by winning the 2-mile girls race in 12:07. Hers was the only official time for the girls race; no other scores were officially recorded because of a mechanical malfunction. Any other times listed here are not official but are approximations.

The Ridgewood girls, missing No. 2 runner Michelle Trylko, finished second with 44 points. Trylko, a senior, was taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Had Trylko run, Ridgewood might have won. Leto was just seven points better than the Rams with 37 points. Ridgewood placed three girls in the top 10 but Leto placed four.

Stacey Jones, a sophomore, led Ridgewood by placing fourth. Two freshmen also placed in the top 10: Stephanie Barndollar (sixth) and Charlotte Robson (ninth).

The Falcons were led by Bolls, Melissa Thomas (fifth), Kate Colpitts (seventh), and Stacey Romer (10th).

Gulf's Michelle McGowan was the top North Suncoast finisher, placing third about 15 seconds behind Bolls. McGowan, a junior, followed runner-up Michelle Kendall of Winter Park. Winter Park was fourth with 75 points, Gulf fourth with 84 points.

The Ridgewood boys' top-five finishers also included sophomore Matt Krcmaric (fourth, 16:08) and senior John Chambers (fifth, 16:13). Mike Verecchia rounded it out, placing 10th in 16:59.

Sample and Leigh led the field for all but a few seconds near the end. When they entered the Ram stadium for the final stretch, which is about two-thirds of the track, Leto's Bobby Steinken slid in a few feet in front of them.

However, Sample responded with a massive kick that put Steinken far behind, and Leigh ran by seconds later. Steinken faded immediately; his third-place finish in 15:47 missed breaking the former course record by one second.

Sample and Leigh said they had a problem with Steinken back at the two-mile mark, where Leigh and Steinken got tangled up and Steinken allegedly pushed Leigh.

"He wasn't getting by us," Sample said firmly. "He kind of (angered us)."

Sample's time was his best this year. He is one of the favorites for a Class 3A individual state championship, and the defending 3A champion Rams team is a strong favorite to repeat.

Leigh said one of the team's main goals this year was to beat Leto, but Ridgewood has had no trouble doing that.

"I never really thought we'd be beating them like this," Leigh said. "It's been a goal for us since last year."

"We were worried (before) about Leto today because of the field," Ridgewood coach Glenn Cable said. "It was a case where every runner has to beat (his) man. And they did. Krcmaric and Chambers really did it for us today."

Only six schools participated in the meet, with Hudson running only in the boys race. Some teams, including River Ridge and Hernando, dropped out to participate in Central High's Bear Invitational.