ST. PETERSBURG — Admiral Farragut’s Blake Arnold had already won individual titles at big meets and was facing watered-down competition at Wednesday’s Pirate Invitational.
So it was only natural for everyone to skip the formalities and tab Arnold the favorite to win.
He did not disappoint.
Turning the race into a sprint, Arnold took a commanding lead from the start and never relinquished it, finishing in a personal-best 16 minutes, 30 seconds.
“I’m really surprised with what I was able to do,” Arnold said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do get a personal record in this race because I wasn’t really running with anyone except myself.”
Arnold was expected to face St. Petersburg’s Sam Chandler in a battle between two of south county’s best runners. But Chandler, along with most of his Green Devil varsity teammates, decided to skip the meet after running in the Mountain Dew Invitational and flrunners meet on consecutive weekends and preparing for the prestate meet next week.
Because there was no one around to push Arnold, he would have to be the pacesetter, not only for himself, but also the meet.
Needing a challenge from something other than the competition, Arnold spent most of the race running under the tyranny of a clock.
“I basically just took it out hard and ran my own race,” Arnold said. “I had a 10- to 15-second lead after the first mile and extended it to about 45 seconds by the second mile. I had no one else around me, but I was glad to see my teammates were the next two behind me.”
The Blue Jackets took the top three spots with Patrick McNamara finishing second in 17:24 and Nima Behesti taking third in 17:35. Admiral Farragut won the boys title with 48 points, five ahead of St. Petersburg Catholic.
In the girls race, St. Petersburg’s Alex Eaton won her third big race of the season, finishing first in 19:37. Carrollwood Day’s Lauren Meaney was second in 20:49 and Boca Ciega’s Alexis Stevens was third in 21:01.
The Green Devils, despite battling some injuries, won the girls race with 40 points, beating Admiral Farragut by 18.