Game Hensleys High in 2A Pecking Order

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On the one hand, the story is nothing new. A pair of kids named Hensley enter the cross country season as Lincoln Park Academy\'s top two runners, not to mention two of the highest-rated harriers in Florida\'s 2A class. On the other, it\'s a tale whose climax that may reach heretofore unexplored levels of drama and delight this fall.

The tale has unfolded in eerily similar fashion every year since 2001, when Mike Hensley, then a sophomore, and Matt Hensley, just an eight-grader, finished second and third respectively at the District 7 Meet to lead LPA to the team title, then took 9th and 11th at the 2A Region 4 Championships the following week to boost LPA to third place. The following autumn, the brothers reversed their 2-3 individual District places, but Lincoln Park again wound up the team victor, this time with a third familiar name in the mix: Jeff Hensley, now in eighth grade, snagged eighth place. And once again, LPA grabbed third as a team at Regionals.

In 2003, the trio led the Greyhounds to their third straight district title, with Matt edging Mike for the individual win and all three brothers again finishing in the top eight. The next week, LPA wound up -- you guessed it -- third at Regionals, foreshadowing a respectable sixth place at the 2A FHSAA Finals.

Mike graduated in 2004, and the impact of his loss was felt when LPA\'s District 7 title streak came to an end last fall courtesy of Coral Springs Charter in spite of Matt and Jeff\'s 1-2 finish. (LPA did, however, nail down its fourth straight third at Regionals and its second straight sixth at the FHSAA Finals.) But in the meantime, the younger Hensleys have built impressive resumes on the track as well as on the turf. This past spring, Matt – whose slowest 3200-meter race in the past two seasons is 9:59 – logged a 9:30.32 at the Bolles Bulldog Classic in March, and went on to claim the district title in that event. He followed this up with a runner-up effort to Jeremy Criscione at Regionals (where he also ran a 4:31 1600 meters for third) and a sixth at the 2A State Meet. For his part, Jeff has shown flashes of being a true distance runner as well, coming back from a disappointing 4:55 1600 at the Regional meet to run a huge PR for 3200, his 10:00-flat being run at almost as fast a pace as his earlier four-lapper.

Heading into this season, their personal bests at Ed Radice Park stand at 15:40 for Matt and 16:47 for Jeff. It's well within the realm of possibility to see them running a combined "sub-32:00" outing or two this season. At any rate, after their powerful showings this past spring, it's clear that whatever recent history favors a given level of success, Matt and Jeff are not the sorts of athletes content to coast along secure in tradition – but a lasting, memorable tradition is certainly what these stalwarts are helping forge before Florida distance fans' eager eyes.

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