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Land O' Lakes Gator Named Runner of the Year

Pasco coaches give the title to cross country sophomore runner Travis Nichols.

Pasco County has no shortage of strong distance runners. In fact, junior Ermias Bireda of Wiregrass Ranch just edged out sophomore Travis Nichols for a 15th place finish at cross country states. However, Pasco County runner of the year encompasses the entire season, not just the state meet.

It's quite an accomplishment just to make states as a sophomore. Nichols not only made states, he finished 16th with a time of 16 minutes 10 seconds.

"I didn't even think I would get it," said Nichols.

Nichols pointed out that senior Sam Hippely of Wiregrass Ranch and sophomore Tyler Stahl of Land O' Lakes "were back and forth all year with me."

The voting must have been close but the sophomore must have impressed the Pasco coaches to the extent that they would hand the award to an under-classman.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Nichols.

Nichols cross-trains in basketball and track and field but confesses that running that 3.1 mile race is where it's at for him.

"Track really helps me develop speed and keeps me in shape for the next cross country season," said Nichols. "But cross country is what I'm best at."

Nichols will run the 1,600 meter and take a leg on the 4x800 meter relay team for Land O' Lakes track in 2012.

And he's already set the bar for himself for next season.

"I hope to get in the top five at states next year and win regionals," he said.

With two full seasons of cross country and track left in his high school career, he stands a very good chance of meeting those goals.

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