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Best of the millennium

Lists, lists. We all love them. The true close of the millennium seemed like the perfect time for another, and seemed to marry well with one of our other beloved topics: debating who are the great athletes of them all.

Hernando County, acre for acre, has represented itself well. There were pro football players, major-league baseball players, prep stars who shined only on the local stage, and finally _ just in time _ an Olympian.

Below we celebrate the top 100 athletes in Hernando County history, as selected in consultation with local experts.

Some of the names were obvious, others faded from memory and were not included, leaving our list somewhat incomplete. Until the next millennium rewrites history, we present the best of the best:

THE PANTHEON

JEROME BROWN _ One of the most storied figures _ athlete or not _ in county history, the Hernando High School graduate won a national college football title as a freshman in 1983 with the Miami Hurricanes. Brown played five seasons with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and earned spots in two Pro Bowls. His promising career was cut short June 25, 1992, by a fatal car crash in Brooksville.

JOHN CAPEL _ The 200-meter champion of the 1997 National Scholastic Outdoor Track and Field Championships and the 1999 NCAA indoor championship, Capel saw his Olympic moment flicker and fade in a disputed start in the finals of the 2000 Sydney Games. The wait for redemption may seemingly take forever, but at 22, Capel has time.

GEORGE FLOYD _ A member of the National College Football Hall of Fame for his exploits at Western Kentucky, Floyd made a name for himself locally as a hard-hitting defensive star at Hernando.

MAULTY MOORE _ Picking fruit for a living after high school, Moore decided to try out for Bethune-Cookman College's football team almost on a dare. He was named a Pittsburgh Press All-American at offensive tackle and became the first Hernando County resident to play in the NFL. Moore was a member of two Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins teams. His 1972 squad went 17-0 and is the last club in league history to finish undefeated.

THE REST

BASEBALL

MIKE WALKER _ Hernando's first major-leaguer, Walker pitched for 14 pro seasons before retiring in 1999.

BRONSON ARROYO _ One of the new crop of county big-leaguers, the right-handed pitcher debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates last summer.

BRENT STENTZ _ The 1998 National Association Rolaids Relief Man Award-winner could make his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2001.

BERT SNOW _ Starred at Vanderbilt and advanced to Triple-A in the Oakland Athletics chain last summer.

DEE BROWN _ Early favorite for one of the best of the new millennium. Jerome's son is a sought-after linebacker by top college programs, but he dreams of a Major League Baseball career.

CHRIS COLE _ A sweet lefty swing helped him hit .520 as a senior at Hernando and later win _ with Brown's help _ a Dixie Majors world title.

TIM SIMS _ Hernando's head coach was an infielder at Alabama, drafted by the Montreal Expos.

TYRONE WOODS _ The Brooksville kid became the home run champ of the Korean League in 1998 with 42 blasts for the OB Bears.

CHAD SIMS _ The Hernando standout played at Seminole Community College and held the school doubles record until this season.

LANDON HESSLER _ The former Leopard pitched briefly at Tennessee, then in several independent minor leagues.

MIKE HAMPTON _ We know the Colorado Rockies' new $121 million ace graduated from Crystal River, but his first breath of air was drawn in Brooksville.

JOHNNY HULL _ A Hernando catching star from the 50s.

TED FARMER _ The Leopard played at Saint Leo in late 1970s, was drafted by Detroit and later signed with the New York Yankees.

ALAN CHATMAN _ He had an 0.69 ERA for Hernando in 1977, pitched a 12-inning three-hitter with 20 strikeouts in the playoffs and played at University of Florida.

VAN ISLER _ Hit .400 in the late 1970s and played at Seminole Community College.

DON FRAZIER _ Pitched on the county's first Dixie Majors World Series team, earned 10 of Hernando High's 26 victories in 1980, went 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in Saint Leo's record-setting 46-win season in 1984.

BUBBA VARN _ The second baseman on the 1967 Hernando title team.

BUSTER MCGEE _ Old-timers talk about the shortstop's catch down the line in Hernando's 1967 state title season.

CHAD MAEDER _ Became the first Central Bear to be named All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year (1997), broke seven season hitting records. Plays football at Florida State.

J.D. NOLAND _ The first pro athlete in Springstead history advanced to Triple-A level of Seattle Mariners system.

PETER FRANTZIS _ Springstead's first NCAA Division I signee played at Mississippi State.

FOOTBALL

CURTIS BUNCH _ The Hernando High brute played with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Bandits.

CURTISS BUNCH _ The Central alum played defensive line for Duke.

LESTER BROWN _ "Chubby" started Hernando's run of dominance against Pasco in 1973 with 5- and 62-yard touchdown runs. He made all-state.

JASON BYRD _ The first Springstead player to rush for 1,000 yards played at Eastern Kentucky.

RODNEY BYRD _ Three-time letterman at Eatern Kentucky, won a national title in 1979. The athletic director at Hernando.

ED CHESTER _ The defensive tackle was going to be the next Hernando County player in the NFL, but a major knee injury ended the Springstead alum's career in 1998 _ the season after he was a named second-team All-America. He helped the University of Florida to the 1996 national title.

RICKY FEACHER _ A 10th-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1976, the Hernando grad was cut then began a nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns as a receiver..

TOM FISHER _ Owns the Tennessee Vols' single-game tackles record (21); Hernando's football stadium is named after him.

TYRONE GOODSON _ In the top 3 in three career receiving categories at Auburn; spent time with Green Bay Packers.

JERMAINE GREEN _ The all-stater at Hernando played at Florida State and West Alabama.

MARLIN GREEN _ The ex-Leopard played two seasons at the Naval Academy, made 1995 FSU national champion team as walk-on.

J.P. INMON _ Held career rushing record (2,478) for 11 years at North Carolina Central.

ALLAN LEAVITT _ Set SEC records for most field goals longer than 50 yards (5), best PAT percentage and most consecutive PATs at Georgia; played for Bucs and Packers.

EDDIE LOOPER _ Times Player of Year and Male Athlete of the Year in 1986, drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.

DWAYNE MOBLEY _ Played for 1996 national champion Florida, holds bevy of Hernando High records, including career rushing (4,041) and touchdowns in a game (7).

JOHN PALMER _ The defensive back played at Southwestern Louisiana.

STANLEY "STEAMBOAT" STEPHENS _ Played at Albany (Ga.) State.

KEVIN SUTTON _ The linebacker played for the University of Minnesota.

ANDREW TIMMONS _ Played at Kansas State.

MARK TRUDELL _ All-state lineman in Springstead's first winning season (1989).

EDDIE WARREN _ Played at Bethune-Cookman and Eastern Kentucky.

MIKE WAGERS _ In the late 1970s, he was part of a daunting Hernando backfield with Stevens, Warren and Mike Revell.

RYAN ANGELO _ Tough fullback a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech.

HUEY WHITTAKER _ The best receiver in county history was a redshirt in his first year at South Florida this fall.

GROVER ELLIS _ Dynamic quarterback for 1967 Hernando team.

HALE LEE _ In a late 1960s Hernando game, he needed 37 stitches to close a cut after falling into a grate behind the sidelines, but he returned in overtime to kick a winning field goal.

FRED ABBOTT _ The Leopards offensive tackle was a captain at Florida.

A.J. STONE _ Completed 242 of 438 passes for 2,943 yards and 27 touchdowns at Springstead.

BRANDON BROWNING _ Hernando passing leader with 246 completions, 3,221 yards and 29 touchdowns.

WAYNE SCHLOBOHM _ The 1996 Springstead grad nearly doubled Dartmouth's career punting record with more than 10,000 yards.

GOLF

CHRISSY ATCHISON _ Member of 1997 Hernando High state champion team, plays at Central Florida.

KELLY LAGEDROST _ Atchison's teammate on that title squad, named All-American as a sophomore at USF.

DOUG FERRIS _ Hernando grad was a two-time junior college All-American, played in U.S. Amateur Championship.

GLEN GABRIEL _ Springstead grad played on some minor pro circuits.

TOM KIRBY _ Hernando grad played at South Florida, two-time Tangerine Bowl champion.

HORSES

PERSONAL FIRST _ Three-year-old colt won the Grade III Amsterdam Stakes, finished second in the Holy Bull for Brooksville's Dianne Waldron this year.

MR. FULL SERVICE _ Has 16 wins, 16 seconds, and 12 thirds in 60 career starts, earning $282,817. In 1998, he won the Grade I Godolphin Classic and Armand Hammer Handicap. Was named champion older horse at the Florida-Bred Awards this year.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS

MARK SWICONEK _ One of 12 global messengers for Special Olympics.

BLANCA RIVERA _ Won gold in 400-meter walk and bronze in the 100-meter walk and shot put at world games.

WRESTLING

MICHAEL HAMILTON _ First county wrestler to win a state title. Won for Hernando at 185 pounds in 1982.

GENARD HUDSON _ Won state unlimited championship for Hernando in 1987.

JOHN LANE _ Captured Springstead's first state title (145-pounds) in 1991.

BRAD KUHL _ Won 135-pound crown for Hernando in 1992.

CHUCK DEASON _ Won 125-pound title for Hernando in 1993.

OMAH SANG _ Captured Central's first championship (171 pounds) in 1994.

REPPARD GORDON _ Won 152-pound title for Leopards in 1995.

COREY HILL _ Became Springstead's first two-time champ (145, 152) in 1996.

RICHARD GANT _ Won 125-pound title for Hernando in 1997.

MICHAEL MALLIN _ Won state title for Bears at 189 in 1997.

JOHN STEVENSON _ Claimed 112-pound state crown for Eagles in 1998.

DUSTIN SWANTON _ Won championships at 119 and 125 for Eagles in 1998 and 1999.

JOHN SMITH _ Won 152-pound state title for Leopards in 1999.

JIMMY STEVENSON _ Won 127-pound state title for Eagles in 2000.

ROBBIE PRITZ _ Won 142-pound class for Hernando in 2000.

BASKETBALL

KRISTI POORE _ Hernando all-time girls scorer (1,776), finished fourth on USF's all-time rebounds list (630).

JASON SARTOR _ Scored Hernando-record 1,437 career points, played at Saint Leo.

TIM MANN _ Point guard for 25-win 1986-87 Hernando team.

BOB WARDLOW _ Leading scorer on 25-win 1964 Hernando squad.

MARION JONES _ Not that one, but Hernando's record-holder with 380 rebounds in 1971-72 season.

PHILLIP JONES _ Owns Hernando record with 45-point game.

ANTONIO VASQUEZ _ Scored 1,073 career points for Hernando.

TONY MARKS _ Scored 1,068 career points for Hernando.

TRACK & FIELD

LISA VAILL _ Flatlander's course record-holder for women; Olympic marathon hopeful.

THERESA VAILL _ National class race-walker.

JERICA GREENE _ Holds Hernando records in long jump (17 feet, 8 inches) and triple jump (33-6{).

JASON HEATHERLY _ His time of 14:47 was third best in state for Hernando in 1982.

CASEY ISAAC _ Helped lead Hernando to its first cross country title in 1997 with Brian Major.

BRIAN MAJOR _ Won state title in the mile in 1999. Runs at Florida Southern.

JODY SPANGLER _ Former state champion 2-miler at Hernando. Ran for University of Alabama.

KEVIN FITZPATRICK _ Two-time state discus champ at Hernando, won silver in 1995 U.S. Olympic festival.

FREDDIE BLACKBURN _ Set then-state record in mile in 1963 at 4:42.

EARL DEEN _ State champion in 100-yard dash in late 1960s, holds Hernando football record with 99-yard punt return for touchdown (1968).

SOCCER

JENNY O'SULLIVAN _ Became the first female professional athlete in county history when she was drafted by the New York Power of the Women's United Soccer Association.

SOFTBALL

CHRISSY HARTLEY _ The slugger and fire-balling pitcher was the Class 3A Player of the Year in 1999.

WANDA GRIFFIN _ Slick shortstop for 25-win Hernando team in 1986.

_ Compiled by Brant James

Up next:WEDDINGS

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