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Citrus quartet likes to run in harmony with others

They rarely, if ever, garner the headlines for their athletic exploits.

Fans don't stand at attention when some of these runners step to the starting line like they do for Hernando sprinter John Capel.

But Citrus track team members Robbie Simmons, Jeff Hannie, Owen Shott and Zac McGowen aren't running for the fame and notoriety. They are running for the enjoyment and to help the Hurricanes win.

Coach Tom Darby knows their value to his squad. So do their teammates. They are some of the unsung heroes who fill in wherever needed at any time, helping the Hurricanes generate points and stay competitive.

"They work hard; they work very hard," Darby said. "For some reason or another they don't get a lot of ink. Nobody knows them well. But they are important to us."

Citrus will be in action today as host of the Class 4A, District 7 track meet. Lecanto, Crystal River, Dunnellon and Lake Weir also will compete beginning at 3 p.m.

For the first two years of high school, Simmons worked and concentrated on his academic studies. In his junior year, he decided he wanted to try something new.

Simmons, 18, participates in the long and triple jumps, 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 relay.

"We don't have one superstar, but we have a lot of people scoring points for us and that all adds up," Simmons said. "Everybody getting certain points in their heats is what makes us good. I do all of those (events) out of necessity, but I love doing them all."

Hannie began his track career with Citrus as a sophomore discus and shot put thrower. Today he will compete in the 110 high hurdles, 300 intermediate hurdles and 4x400 relay.

"My favorite is the 4x400," said Hannie, 18. "It's the hardest, but it's more exciting because it's the last of the races and sometimes that determines whether you win the meet, so that makes it more exciting."

Darby said the two are stellar examples of the type of team he has.

"Robbie is a jack-of-all-trades," Darby said. "He's not exceptional in any, but he's decent in them all. He's a very consistent scorer. And Hannie is of the same mold, but not quite as fast."

McGowan will be competing in district competition for the first time in two years. Chronic knee problems have hampered him for years, and normally by this time of year, Darby said, McGowan is out for the season with injuries.

"This is the first time we've seen him run this late in the year and he's doing quite well," Darby said. "He's run 2:04 in the half-mile and 4:43 in the mile. And he's run a leg on the 4x800 relay. He's had an exceptionally good year. I'm very happy for him. This is how the story should end. The good guys step up into the light."

Shott, who along with McGowan was a member of Citrus' state-contender cross country team, also is having a solid season.

"He is as steady and hard a worker as I've had," Darby said.

The top four runners from each event today will advance to next week's regional competition. That means every step, every handoff, every throw will be crucial.

Based on past performances this season, Lecanto is a slight favorite in the boys competition and also favored in the girls. But that doesn't mean that Citrus plans to just sit back and be content with hosting the rest of the field.

"I think we have a chance," Darby said. "Anytime you line up, you have a chance."