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Freshman Wright already a step and a jump ahead

Citrus track coach Tom Darby isn't one to gush so early about the exploits of Candice Wright. She's only a freshman, he warns, and a lot can happen in four years.

Sure. Like a few more school records, a state championship, a college scholarship.

Darby's concerns about the effects of time are warranted, but sois enthusiasm and the great hope the future holds. In a short time, Wright has become Citrus County's Splendid Sprinter.

"She's been a good, pleasant surprise," Darby said. "And she is talented."

Wright already has set the school record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.4, breaking the previous record by almost a half-second. And she hopes to do the same in the 200 and the long jump, in which she has posted the county-best leap this season.

So much, so soon. And for Wright, so much more time to do even better. After all, it was only the third meet she had competed in when she broke the school record in the 100 March 7 at Leesburg.

"I was expecting to get beat . . . bad," Wright said. "Real bad. Because I really wasn't expected to come out and beat the record or anything like that. I was expecting to be second or third.

"I had run at the Freshman/Sophomore track meet (and won the 100, 200 and long jump on March 4), but this was the real track meet with all the juniors and seniors. I thought I was going to get beat."

Wright didn't know right away she had set a school record. Girls coach Bob Goddard did.

"He made a big deal out of my time," Wright said. "I said, "Why?' He said, "You set a school record.'

"I didn't know until they told me. Then I told everybody."

Wright, only the fourth freshman to play varsity basketball at Citrus, always has been fast. In grade school, she said, she could beat all the boys except for her cousin. "Now I beat him, too," she said.

But she didn't know how good she was until the seventh grade, when she emerged as a bright prospect for track success. She won the 100 and every hurdles race.

Darby, though, paid no heed. Among athletes that age, he pays attention to the numbers of bodies that will join the team, not the numbers posted on the track.

Other coaches noticed, though. "I remember the name from grade school," Lecanto coach Freddie Bullock said. "She's the real deal. It looks like the sky's the limit for her."

Assistant track coach Bruce Nelson raved about Wright's quickness during basketball season, and little has changed. "She'll be the best sprinter we've ever had here at Citrus," he said.

She might be already after only five meets. She beat Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Athlete of the Year Angie Smith of Hernando in the 100 and nearly did so in the 200. Cornell knows now that when she lines up, she will be the focus of other runners' attention.

Wright, whose mother, Patricia, was a scholarship track athlete at Florida, doesn't mind the added pressure. She craves it. Since setting the school record, she has taken track _ and the incoming challenges _ more seriously.

"Oh yeah," Darby said. "Candice from Day 1 only practices one way, and that's (hard). She doesn't fool around. There's none of the giggly. . . . She's pretty serious about what she does, and she works hard at it."

So far, that hard work has paid off. Splendidly.

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