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He suspects few, if any, of the runners he coaches will know of his accomplishments.

The 21-year-old doubts any will know the name Jeff Masterson. Most will simply get to know him as Sunlake's first cross country coach. That's just fine with Jeff.

"My running career was different," Masterson said. "Now I just want my coaching career to speak for itself."

Three years ago Masterson was a local celebrity often leading most high school distance races in the state. He is a former Mitchell state champion, winner of the 2004 Class 3A medal in the 3,200 meters.

A brief career at USF ended due to injuries and personal reasons. He takes night classes at St. Petersburg College in search of a teaching degree and will coach and teach at Sunlake.

"When somebody calls me 'Coach,' that'll be weird," Masterson said. "I'm only 21 years old. ...It might take me a couple of years to build something."

Masterson's state title race was arguably his best and seemingly the last he ran with purpose. In October 2003, Masterson's father and mentor lost his fight with cancer. Masterson honored his father by winning the state title.

That was the pinnacle.

Masterson ran his senior season, but without the intensity that vaulted him to elite status. He briefly quit Mitchell's track team before finishing out his high school career.

"Do I still love running? Absolutely," Masterson said. "Do I still love to run as much as I did? No. But I want to see kids have the opportunity I had. ...I just want them to have fun."

Beyond gaining new perspective Masterson, who will earn a $1,745 supplement, expects coaching to be a fresh start. He tapped local coaches such as Gulf's Dean Lofton and former Mitchell coach Bill Napalitano for advice. He also has leaned on his brother, Tim, who coaches at Mitchell.

"I hope he doesn't get frustrated," Tim said. "Sometimes you expect kids to be up to your talent level, but they just don't have that kind of talent. You have to be willing to work at it. It takes a few years to build a solid program."


Recent Sunlake hires

Boys weightlifting: Matt Smith

Girls weightlifting: Ramiro Tejada

Boys tennis: Sam Koleduk

Girls tennis: Karen Turman

Boys swimming: Daniel Merced

Girls swimming: Shannon Chisolm

Boys cross country: Jeff Masterson