ST. PETERSBURG — In most races, Northside Christian’s Kaitlyn Greenleaf prefers to stay with the lead pack late before making her move.
On Thursday, she tried a different tactic.
The junior turned the St. Petersburg City Meet race into sprint rather than a test of endurance.
That was evident from the starter’s pistol when Greenleaf pushed the pace mercilessly. It didn’t take long before she started pulling away from a staggering field.
Greenleaf was not surprised at her start. She knew she would have to go out front and stay there to have a shot at breaking the Crescent Lake course record.
By finishing first in 18 minutes, 54 seconds, Greenleaf accomplished her goal, eclipsing the mark of 18:58 set by former Lakewood star Ali Crabb, who is now running at Florida.
"The record was something I was shooting for,” Greenleaf said. “I wanted to take it out fast. I knew I was going to have to do that and hold it.”
St. Petersburg’s Alex Eaton, who won the large-school race at last week’s pre-state meet, finished second (19:43), followed by teammates Erin Waterman (19:49) and Savannah Dearden (19:51), who were third and fourth.
With three runners in the top five, the Green Devils won the girls team title with 48 points, beating Keswick by 21.
Unlike the girls race, the boys race ended with a frantic finish. St. Petersburg’s Cameron Wheeler and Admiral Farragut’s Blake Arnold jostled for position the first 2½ miles. They were still shoulder-to-shoulder in the homestretch as each made a mad dash for the finish line.
Wheeler had just enough kick to finish first in 16:44, one second ahead of Arnold.
“I knew Blake had a big kick,” Wheeler said. “I had just enough to hold him off.”
Northside’s Mario Ojeda was third in 17:14, followed by Shorecrest’s Caelum Schandle (17:29). Ojeda’s teammates, Joe Chapman (17:32) and Matthew Montanari (17:35), were fifth and sixth.
The Mustangs’ strong showing among their top runners helped them win the team title with 47 points, 33 ahead of the Chargers. It was just the second time Northside has won a boys cross country meet in school history.