When they should have been jumping hurdles, they were bagging groceries.
Instead of stomach crunches, they were crunching numbers.
When they were supposed to be practicing, they were complaining.
Work schedules, night school and some laziness are the biggest obstacles the Hernando team members have faced this season.
Coaches have tried everything to keep their athletes interested _ discipline, humor, flexibility, even cuts.
Today, when the Leopards play host to the county meet at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium, their motivation will be standing in the lane next to them.
"I know the kids are going to give their all (today), because they don't want to lose to their friends," boys coach Dwayne Mobley said. "In giving their all, I can see where they're at."
Hernando started the season with 30 girls.
Yet when coach Pat Hobart outlined their responsibilities, many quit. Others continued to hang around the squad but refused to work.
For the first time, Hobart had to make cuts. Only 16 girls remain.
"I really think if we stay together this year, we'll really set a precedent," assistant coach Sue Murphy said. "And if we stay with it, we'll have a really strong team."
Because of its small numbers, Hernando measures success this season by things such as effort and participation rather than performance.
Mobley has 26 athletes on his roster but seldom sees more than two-thirds of them at practice. Distance runners such as Ben Williams, Logan Emerson and Phil Dysart are among the mainstays.
"I never had trouble out of my long-distance guys," Mobley said. "They're always on time and doing what they're supposed to do."
Mobley expects his distance runners _ along with thrower Donnie Nichols, jumper Eric Williams and the 1,600-meter relay team of Williams, Mozel Elder, Richard Frazier and Rod Roberts _ to lead the Leopards in the county meet.
Williams placed second in the long jump and Nichols took third in shot put at the Raider Invitational on Feb. 28 at South Sumter. The 1,600 relay squad finished second, helping Hernando to a sixth-place showing.
"Progress is starting to happen," Mobley said.
Leela Hadsock (1,600), Katee Lukas (1,600), Brittni Murphy (400), Jamie Stockton (pole vault) and the 800 (Danielle Churchill, Hadsock, Lukas and Olivia Murphy) and 1,600 (Murphy, Murray, Karry Schuele and Scarlett Kingsley) relay teams give the girls their best shot at placing.
The Leopards, powered by runner-up performances from the 1,600 and 3,200 relay squads, took fifth at South Sumter.
"We don't have a lot of numbers," Murphy said, "but the (events) we are in, I think we'll be competitive."
_ Staff writer Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, Ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastorsptimes.com.