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Central's 4x800 relay sets another record

It was supposed to be a much bigger stage for the Central girls 4x800 relay team, a spotlight cast by 13 teams packed onto the Bears' track for the Bear Relays.

But a heavy rainstorm Thursday night canceled Friday's relays and doused the spotlight that was supposed to shine so brightly on Central's Brooke Szabo, Heather Hamilton, Jenna Iannella and Brooke Bastien.

Postponed until Saturday, the meet drew one other team, leaving those four girls to run what was sure to be another record-breaking race against only Clearwater Central Catholic. It wasn't exactly the type of competition they were hoping for.

But the Marauders came out strong and led the Bears by as much as 150 yards after only one lap. Not only was the thought of a school record _ the third one this season for that relay team _ in jeopardy, but so were the points for the win.

But Hamilton ran her leg and caught up a little bit, then handed off to Iannella who ran down her girl.

"I didn't pass her but we were side by side at the line," Iannella said.

Then it was Bastien's turn. The junior ran with her Marauder opponent for the first 200 yards or so and then passed her, never looking back.

When she crossed the line, the clock read 10:44.5, another 4x800 school record.

"We just worked really hard," Iannella said. "We were so far behind that we just ran hard and tried to catch up."

Also taking home blue ribbons for Central in its 62-47 victory over CCC were Michelle Wentworth in the shot put and discus, Kristin Poda in the pole vault, Bastien in the high jump and 3,200, Shamelia Whittaker in the 100, Desiree Bergeron in the 300 hurdles and Christine Diorio in the 800.

And despite the fact Central was running against one other team rather than 12 or 13 as planned, head coach Rick Munford said he was pleased with what he saw.

"I'm just looking to improve their times," Munford said. "Everything is practice until championship time. Sometimes they don't understand that and are mad when they don't win a race, but as long as the coach is happy why should they be disappointed?"

One thing that pleased Munford was the performance of Whittaker, who is quickly becoming the surprise of the season for Central. Besides her win in the 100, the junior also placed second in the long jump.

"She asked me what I wanted her to jump and I said 15-1," Munford said. "She'd never jumped before but she went right out and hit 15-1."

Heading into Thursday's Panther Invitational, Munford said he is very pleased to see his team perform so well this early in the season.

When you add in runners like Carey Hooper, Trecia Swanston and Nikki Laushot, it seems things can only get better for Central.

"I'm quite happy right now," Munford said. "One of the biggest surprises for this year has been Trecia Swanston in the triple jump. I'm looking forward to the meet at Lecanto."

Central does have its share of nagging injuries, however. Bastien has been slowed by a knee injury that she said didn't bother her in the high jump or 4x800 but kicked in after the first mile of the 2-mile race, and Hooper has shin splints.

"It really started to hurt in the 2-mile race," Bastien said, noting her 12:07 in that race was the fastest she had run since the state meet her freshman year. "And when I finished it I could barely walk."

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