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Club bets track stars are winners

The West Florida Y Runners Club is investing $3,000 of Times Turkey Trot proceeds in the future. And the future in this case is represented by 1993 high school graduates Tshanna Porter of Clearwater and Robert Ross of Northeast.

After interviewing five young men and five young women recommended by their track or cross-country coaches, a panel of judges this week decided that awarding $1,500 scholarships to Tshanna and Robert was a sound investment.

The pair will be honored Tuesday night at a runners club dinner meeting, open to the public, at Damon's, The Place for Ribs, in Clearwater. Reservations are not necessary, and dinner may be ordered from the menu.

Guests at the meeting will include representatives of companies that sponsor the various road races put on by the club. There will be a social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7. Call Marc Skinner at 581-2676 for information.

Tshanna, 18, is headed for Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. She hasn't decided on a major but is thinking about studying to become a lawyer.

In academics at Clearwater High, she didn't shy away from tough courses and earned a 3.57 grade point average, ranking 29th in her class of 377. In track, her specialty was the triple jump.

Dick Lacey, a volunteer track coach at the school, calls the triple jump "one of the most complex and difficult events to master.

"(Tshanna) is the only jumper I have coached, and I've had some good ones, who has learned how to do this event as it ought to be done. There are many jumpers in our area who jump farther than she does, but not one who does it really correctly as she does."

But the highest praise comes from Clearwater High guidance counselor Dottie Jessup: "Tshanna Porter is a very special kind of student who only comes along once in a counselor's career. . . . Tshanna has shown her natural ability to lead. Her peers respond to her commitment, energetic follow-through and mature judgment.

"She is able to carry all of this off and still be very well-liked as "one of the guys.' She leads by example and inspires the best in others through her positive regard of each individual's worth."

Those peers this year chose her as their homecoming queen and Student Government Association vice president.

She has worked as a peer counselor at Clearwater High, helping other students succeed, and has been a cheerleader and Girls State representative. She also has been a children's church teacher, choir member and church pianist.

A Clearwater native, she is the daughter of Sharon Porter.

Robert's story, in a somewhat different way, is also inspiring. His freshman year at Northeast was a disaster. He couldn't get along with teachers and preferred "hanging out in the street" to being in class.

"I was rotten," he told the scholarship judges. But he couldn't shake the quiet advice of his grandfather, who let Robert know he disapproved of his lifestyle and kept telling him, "The streets will not take care of you."

Robert, now 18, came back the next fall, started over and learned how to take care of himself. Coaches and counselors still are marveling over his turnaround.

Coach Michael Walls said, "Robert's success and leadership on the track have been an inspiration to our entire coaching staff." He was district champion in the grueling 300-meter intermediate hurdles and a member of the district champion mile relay team.

Robert is headed for Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach and plans to major in engineering. His Northeast grade point average was 3.08, and he ranked 107th in a class of 401.

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