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A bigger, stronger Graham back in track mode

Area sprinters take note. A bigger, badder, stronger Norman Graham is back in form.

The Pasco High junior has put on pounds and inches. But it's not because he was spending too much time at the dinner table, as some opponents suspected after Graham was beaten easily in the 100 meters at the Chasco Invitational earlier this month.

Graham has spent the months since football season pumping up in the weight room and currently is a member of the Pirates' weightlifting team. All that added muscle seemed to slow Graham down and one of his coaches said it has taken time for him to adjust.

"Norman was having problems because he had bulked up so much," said Pasco assistant coach Beverly Ledbetter. "He had been working hard in the weight room but he needed to get back into track shape. You use different muscles for running and he needed to regain that leg strength."

It appears Graham has. In a quadrangular meet Tuesday at Zephyrhills, he won the 100 meters in 11 seconds flat, which tied the fastest time in the county this season and was just 2/10ths off his conference-winning time of 10.8 last season.

Graham also won the 200 meters in 23.17 and anchored the winning 4x100 relay team to lead Pasco to first place.

"Norman is back in form," Ledbetter said. "We expect him to return to the top."

Graham also has been working out with Alpha Omega Track Club coach Art Foster, whose New Port Richey-based organization has opened a Dade City branch. Foster is the father and coach of world class junior hurdler Char Foster.

Graham's return to form has had an impact on the team as evidenced by the quad-meet victory. But others have contributed, Ledbetter said. She singled out freshman Travis McKever, who competes in several events and won the discus Tuesday with a throw of 119 feet, 2 inches.

"He has been a real find," Ledbetter said. "He is only a freshman but he is doing really well."

Also, David Demaree was a memberof Pasco's winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams, and Ledbetter's son Nathan has run 2 minutes, 3 seconds in the 800.

The Pasco girls also have enjoyed a strong season, Ledbetter said, led by multi-event performer Tonya Gillamore. She won the high jump at 5-0 Tuesday and has a season best of 5-4.

Also, Sharmenka Ross, sister of University of Florida tight end Taras Ross, has thrown 24-10 in the shot. And Ledbetter said the Pirates have a stellar 4x100 relay team led by Amber Stinyard and Brandi Doctor.

"That team is awesome," Ledbetter said. "I think they will go to state. I know they can beat some of the best boys times around here."

RIDGEWOOD: The Rams boys will compete in their first meet in nearly two weeks today at the Panther Invitational at Lecanto High. Coach Glenn Cable is looking forward to the competition the Panthers' distance runners should provide.

"We go up to Lecanto because they give us good competition, especially their distance runners," Cable said. "This is as good a school as many that we can find to run against."

Cable is hoping freshman distance runner Brad Williams will gain valuable experience. He already has run 4:41 in the 1,600. "That's a good time regardless of grade," Cable said, "and flat out outstanding for a freshman."

Jeff Schuhert also has run 2:03 in the 800 and Dab Bishop 15.1 in the 110 hurdles. Chuck Peterson has run 11.0 in the 100 and set the school record of 22-1{ in the long jump. Ben Cable has gone 12-6 in the pole vault.

RIVER RIDGE: Coach Bill Napolitano thought this would be an off year for his boys squad. He has been pleasantly surprised.

"We're doing a lot better than I thought we would when the season started," Napolitano said. "I thought they were going to go out there and just go through the motions. But we have put together a pretty good team. We're not the caliber of Ridgewood, or even Springstead, but we are getting closer."

Jason Matthews had led the Royal Knights. He has run the 120-yard hurdles in 15.6 and the 330-yard hurdles in 41.23. (Both times were run Tuesday at Citrus High, which measures distance in yards rather than meters.) Matthews also has gone 44 feet in the triple jump.

Another standout has been surprise junior Chris Trautman, who has gone 12-6 in the pole vault.

"That's great for a first-year pole vaulter," Napolitano said. "And it gives (Ben) Cable some competition. And that can only help both of them."

Also, Steve Long has thrown 46-} in the shot put to break his own school record by nearly 4 feet. Jake Tavo has thrown 127-4{ in the discus.

"We've had a lot of kids step up and show some leadership," Napolitano said. "There are some areas we still have to work on, but I am happy with our progress."

LAND O'LAKES: Coach Rock Ridgeway said his girls team is not big in numbers but has some solid individuals.

He cited Melissa Tozzylowski, who has run 2:34 in the 800; Bree Kunkel, who has run 2:39 in the 800; and Challis Weerts, who has triple-jumped 31-5.

"We're pretty young but we are working hard," Ridgeway said.

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