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Sunshine cross-country race promises excitement

The same principles will be involved, but will that equal the same results?

If so, cross country fans will be in for a real treat at Saturday's Sunshine Athletic Conference championships at Ridgewood High School.

Who remembers last year? Who remembers Ridgewood's Stephanie Barndollar charging viciously through the chute, nudging Gulf's Leah Wojnar out of the way and grabbing fourth? Or the strong kicks of Rams runners Tara Ramirez and Charlotte Robson, who slipped past Gulf's Jennifer Cregan for seventh and eighth, respectively?

Those usually unnoticed moves proved decisive. The result was a one-point win for the Rams in one of the most exciting SAC conference meets ever.

This year, the five-time defending SAC champion Rams have dominated area girls meets, but Gulf has closed the gap, finishing second at the county meet by 22 points.

Individually, Jacki Waller will go for her second straight championship, as will Ridgewood's Matt Krcmaric, who won the meet last year and held the Rams boys to their third straight title.

The Ridgewood boys won the county meet a week and a half ago, but River Ridge will return Chris Hannon, who missed the meet, and that could make things closer.

Lecanto easy favorite in GCC

Reality prompts Hernando High boys cross-country coach Ernie Chatman to concede Saturday morning's Gulf Coast Conference championships to Lecanto, ranked 21st among nationwide prep teams according to a poll in The Harrier magazine.

"We're all running to prepare for the next few races," Chatman said of the postseason, "because nobody's going to run with Lecanto."

Lecanto will be joined by Hernando, Central, Citrus, Crystal River and South Sumter in the GCC meet at McKethan Lake Park north of Brooksville. The 2-mile GCC girls race begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by the 3-mile boys race at 9.

Lecanto's boys, who are No. 1 in Class 4A and have beaten the state's top-ranked teams in all other classifications, kept their unbeaten steak season intact last weekend with their 62-point victory at Dr. Phillips High in Orlando.

Junior Sean McManus, the GCC boys favorite, won in Orlando. The last time he ran at McKethan Lake, earlier this season, he won the Red Mule Invitational. Lecanto teammates Emilie Ruetenik and Cindy Ketchum, Hernando's Cassie Nowicki and Central's Brooke Bastien should contend among the girls.