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Riverview runners upend Leto

Published Oct. 2, 2005

Bobby Ennis had the look of a man who had been there many times before. Calm, quiet, stoic, but mostly, accepting.

In reality, it had been a very long time since Ennis had coached the Leto boys to anything but a district championship. Longer than any of his runners could remember. Eighteen years.

Seventeen district championships ensued Ennis' rookie season, the year the Falcons became known as the Long Red Row. In that time, Ennis developed perspective enough to handle the inevitable. So when Sarasota Riverview ended the streak _ via a tiebreaker _ Ennis handled it like it was just another loss.

The way he might have in 1979.

"I've been on the lucky side too many times to cry about this," said Ennis, coach of seven state champions at Leto. "Shoot, over the years I've been luckier than I am good, that's for sure. We won state one year by three points. We could just as easily have lost.

"The longer you stay in it, it all evens out."

Riverview won the Class 6A, District 4 meet thanks to its sixth man, Chet Zabik. The Rams and Falcons were tied at 59 points after scoring the usual top five runners. Zabik finished 23rd, four spots ahead of Leto's Mike Knutson.

Leto's Sean Gilman won the race in a personal-best 15 minutes, 6 seconds. Riverview's David Topping (15:10) was second, while Leto's Jeff Hill (15:16) was third.

East Lake's Sean McCabe finished sixth with a time of 15:48.

Bloomingdale won the girls race, finishing ahead of Riverview 59-76. Gaither's Alli Tatangelo went wire-to-wire to cruise to first in easily her best time ever, 18:20. Chamberlain's Kim Myers (18:55) and Bloomingdale's Amber Littleton (19:07) were second and third, respectively.

Riverview's win was even more surprising because it was soundly defeated by Leto in earlier meets at the University of Florida and at South Florida.

"A program like Leto, I mean, they're the yardstick for programs in this area," Riverview coach Jason Means said. "I just told my team today that no matter what happens I'm very, very proud of them, they've worked hard.

"I tell them there's two 'nevers' and an 'always.' Never give up. Never make excuses. Always have fun."

Ennis said Riverview's win was reminiscent of the way his teams have won district championships. The Rams had four of the top 15.

"I hate losing," Ennis said. "But it's a credit to Riverview. They won the type of race we pattern ourselves after, where everybody's in there together. We got beat by a team running our kind of race."

The top 15 runners and the top six teams advance to a regional meet on Nov. 15 at Cypress Grove Park in Orlando.