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Eagles swim at high level again

After losing its season-opening dual meet to Tampa Prep, and with it a two-season-long winning streak, the Springstead High boys swim team has won its past seven meets.

The Eagles, coming off victories over River Ridge and Central in a tri-meet last week, head into today's meet at Lecanto showing plenty of promise for this year and beyond.

"We picked up a few extra bodies, and that made a big difference," Springstead coach Rick Dofka said. "I think next year this team will be a lot like the boys teams of the past two years _ they won't lose a meet. I'm almost willing to put that into print."

As for the present, a strong 200-meter medley relay of backstroker Ryan Bried, butterflyer Rene Vasquez, breaststroker Brian Hengsbach and freestyler Pete Nelson holds Springstead's best hopes for winning a qualifying berth to the state championships in November.

They have been timed in 1 minute, 53 seconds, and Dofka figures another two seconds could advance the Eagles beyond their district championships.

The medley foursome is joined by two brothers, sprint freestyler Chris DeVault and distance freestyler Paul DeVault, as the main force behind Springstead's 7-1 record, which includes a disputed victory over Citrus High last month.

Springstead's girls, meanwhile, are 2-6, with victories over Crystal River and Central. They nearly recorded a third victory against River Ridge in the tri-meet, but lost a close competition when went one Eagle swimmer mistakingly dove into a another during a final relay event.

Led by individual medley-swimmer Mona Disanti, a breaststroke specialist, and distance freestyler Dorothy Lapinski, Springstead's girls also swim against Lecanto today.

The Central High girls earned their first victory ever by beating Crystal River earlier this month, and the boys are off to a 4-2 dual-meet start.

Three of Central's girls _ Renee Yarrington, Adele Yarrington and Staci Stock _ have set school records, in five events. Kristen Paulsen and Erica Hughes also have scored big for the 1-5 Bears.

"The girls _ they're improving so much," said Central coach Elizabeth Bendl, whose club is down to 10 members from its original 15. "We just don't have the depth."

Greg Stock and Tom Huyser, along with improving newcomers Nelson Dellamaggiore and Mike Maeder, have led Central's boys to victories over Umatilla, Lecanto, Crystal River and River Ridge. Stock is undefeated in the 100-meter freestyle this season, with a school record of 55.8 seconds.

"The boys have really come together as a team in a way I didn't expect they would," said Bendl, who now expects her Bears to finish above .500. They travel to Citrus today.

Cross-country: Hernando High senior Jody Sprangler knew no boy ever had broken the 18-minute barrier on Central's sandy, wooded 3-mile high school cross-country course.

"We'll change that," Spangler said before the 3-mile Bear Invitational boys race Saturday.

Then he easily did, winning in a course-record 16 minutes, 1 second. The state's defending Class 3A 3200-meter champion won by 33 seconds over Will Staples of meet champion Zephyrhills, which finished with 43 points to win by 25. Hernando's Eric Omdahl was third, just behind the Bulldogs freshman.

Spangler _ who next runs Saturday morning at the University of South Florida Invitational, in Tampa _ thought he might be pushed last Saturday, but he wasn't. Returning state qualifier Brian Wenhold of Orlando Edgewater was among several no-shows; he had a conflict with an SAT test.

Runner-up Hernando had two others, Jay Gregory (17:11) and Shawn O'Connor (17:25), among the top 20. Springstead finished sixth in the 16-team meet with 168. Central, led by 18th-place finisher Shane Brooks (17:26), was eighth at 201.

"We're improving _ that's what counts," said Springstead coach Fred Hudson, whose Eagles, led by Rocky Eulo and Tim Cummings, are rebuilding after consecutive runner-up finishes in the 3A state championships.

Hernando County's top finisher in Saturday's 2-mile girls race was Springstead's Vera Blevins, who placed fourth in 13:57. Other top-20 finishers were Hernando teammates Cassie Nowecki (10th, 14:12) and Danielle Ideran (13th, 14:38), Central teammates Danielle Assalti (14th, 14:45) and Shannon Akerman (20th, 15:03), and Springstead's Shannon Smith (16th, 14:59).

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