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LONG DISTANCES LOSE LUSTER FOR PLANT STAR

Brigithe Moreno, the county's dominant runner, likely won't lace up her sneakers.

Plant senior Brigithe Moreno, the defending Class 3A cross country state champion, said she may not run this season.

Moreno, the 2006 Times' Runner of the Year, hasn't trained since the middle of track season, having run a combined 9 miles the past three months. In previous summers - at her peak - she would run 40 miles per week.

"I can barely run 3 miles now," Moreno told the Times. "I'm scared. I'm scared I won't be able to run at the level I was at before. "If I run at all this year, I'll just run for fun."

Moreno said running hasn't been fun for a long time. The swift star dominated last season, sweeping the district, region and state meets while becoming the only runner in the county to break 18 minutes in the 5K (17:59). By comparison, Pasco sophomore Leeann Eble, the top runner in Pasco County, ran no better than 19:52 in any race.

But Moreno, who has been running since grade school, began to get burned out by track season, when she admitted she sporadically trained. Her father, Angel, who competed nationallly in Mexico, handled her workouts, progressively building them up.

Moreno resisted, saying she stopped training runs before the district meet, where she won the 1,600 meters in 5:36. Plant coach Roy Harrison said he had to "talk her into" running at the regional, where Moreno deliberately jogged herself out of a state meet berth, ending a potentially sparkling season in shocking fashion.

"I didn't feel the same every time I ran a race," Moreno said. "I didn't feel happy. I was tired of running."

Moreno said she received tons of recruiting letters from colleges, but never read them. After taking several months off, Moreno ran Aug. 1 for the first time this summer; she said she "felt bad, my heart felt bad." Moreno said she'll likely make her decision in the first few weeks of school. But Harrison isn't optimistic that one of the most talented runners he has ever coached will run again.

"I haven't been in contact with her all summer," said Harrison, who has coached a record seven individual state cross country champions and eight team champions during his 25 seasons at the school. "As of now, Brigithe isn't running cross country."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or (813) 310-9024

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