ST. PETERSBURG — Northeast sophomore Amanda Spring finished third in 20 minutes, 19 seconds, and right behind her teammate Aleksandra Corokalo, and a few spots behind them, in ninth, Taylor Phillips.
When Viking Courtney Condon finished 11th, it looked like Northeast had a chance to shockingly win its own invitational Wednesday evening, on the rain-coated course at Crescent Lake Park it calls home.
But sheets of rain gave way to a wave of green. Before the fifth and final scorer could cross for the Vikings, five Green Devils did as St. Petersburg secured another team title, scoring 60 points like Northeast but winning on the strength of its No. 6 runner, who is used to break ties.
It made for a suspenseful finish at the Viking Invitational, because one did not exist in the individual finishes or the boys team competition.
Seminole’s Mary Hall blistered the course in 19:14, crediting the rain for cooling her off and a course with a generous amount of concrete for her time.
And once again, Warhawk Chase Sutton was much the best, running a 16:17 to beat out teammate Jacob Hudak. The Warhawks won going away, scoring 23 points and taking five of the top eight spots.
The Warhawks are a deep boys team, like the St. Petersburg girls. Their victories were not unexpected.
Northeast’s finish was.
With only six runners, the Vikings have no margin for error. They are perpetually one off day, one runner not feeling it, one muscle pull away from not even posting a team score.
St. Petersburg, on the other hand, seems like it has hundreds of runners.
When a runner like Savannah Dearden, usually its No. 2, can struggle like she did Wednesday and not finish, there are others to step in, like junior varsity runners Anne Collar (18th) and Caroline Krueger (20th).
For Northeast, every step, every second, every score matters.
“We may not have a lot of runners, but the ones we have train hard and are doing great,” said Phillips, the junior captain. “I’m pretty happy with today. We’ve been doing really good this year.”
All things considered, the Vikings have been great.
At the season-opening FACA meet in Tampa, they finished fourth among 27 teams. Last week, they were second at John Chesnut Park.
Wednesday, they were second, but only by a sliver.
“We’re getting closer,” Phillips said.
So never mind that St. Petersburg is a better team than Northeast, or if Dearden runs her usual race, the Green Devils win by 15 or more.
All that mattered was Spring and Corokalo finished ahead of the top two Green Devils, and Phillips and Condon finished ahead of the top two Green Devils after that.
“They’ve got a little underdog in them,” said coach Larry Rudisill. “St. Pete is hands-down a better team; they are phenomenal. But today definitely made our girls believe they can compete. They are definitely looking forward to the showdown with them at districts.”
“It was a good day,” Corokalo said. “It definitely shows us that all the sweat and tears are worth it."
Corokalo hopes a few more performances like this might encourage that No. 7, 8 or 9 runner walking the halls at Northeast to run out and join them on the course. Everyone is back next year. She thinks good things could happen.
As Corokalo headed off to collect stakes and flags and clear the park, it was suggested she and her teammates watch where they step, it being wet and all.
“We’ll be careful.”