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With the balance of power in cross country gravitating toward south county, the St. Petersburg City Meet has become one of the premier races during the regular season.
It also offers some intriguing story lines.
The meet, set for today at Crescent Lake Park, will be the first time St. Petersburg and Admiral Farragut have raced against each other in a meaningful race this season.
The Blue Jackets’ Blake Arnold, who has the second-fastest time in the county this season (16 minutes, 30 seconds), is the favorite.
Last year, Arnold ran side-by-side with the Green Devils’ Cameron Wheeler in an epic finish as both lunged at the finish line. Wheeler won by less than a second.
Wheeler has graduated but Arnold will likely have to hold off another Green Devil, Sam Chandler, who has the county’s sixth-fastest time (16:47) entering the race.
The front-runner in the girls race is Northside Christian’s Katelyn Greenleaf, who won last year in a course-record 18:54.
Three other runners — St. Petersburg’s Alex Eaton, Northeast’s Amanda Spring and Keswick Christian’s Hannah Palm — will be in the lead pack but will have a difficult time beating Greenleaf, who has not lost to a county runner in four years.
Greenleaf said she is not zeroing in on another record going into the race.
“I would love to set the course record again, but the main goal is just to win it,” Greenleaf said. “And I hope I can do enough to help my team win because I think we have a good shot at it.”
The Mustangs should be challenged for the team title by St. Petersburg and Northeast.
St. Petersburg City Meet
What: Cross country
When: Girls race at 5 p.m. Wednesday; boys at 5:30
Where: Crescent Lake Park
Teams: Admiral Farragut, Boca Ciega, Canterbury, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Keswick Christian, Lakewood, Northeast, Northside Christian, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Catholic, Shorecrest