LUTZ — The tear on the top of Mark Parrish's green right shoe — inflicted by another runner's spike — proved the Class 4A-2 regional in which he had just prevailed was as much about physicality as fleetness.
"Luckily it missed my toe," the Chamberlain senior said. "I don't know whose spike it was."
On a cloudless Friday morning that gradually grew warmer after a chilly start, Parrish and Seminole junior nemesis Chase Sutton broke free from a logjam of lead runners to place first and second, respectively. Parrish finished in 15 minutes, 52 seconds — four seconds ahead of Sutton.
"For the first mile and a half or so, there was a front pack of about 10 guys and it's a really tight, packed course, so there was a lot of contact going on," said Sutton, who will be Pinellas County's lone boys representative at next weekend's 4A state meet in Dade City.
"But eventually some people started making some moves, which lost a lot of people, but I just made sure that whenever someone made a move I'd get right on them so I wouldn't lose them."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Warhawks senior Katie Homme also posted the county's top girls finish. On a Lake Park course of grass and narrow, hard sand paths, Homme placed eighth (19:25) to earn a state berth. On the drive to Lake Park, Sutton and Homme each downed a protein shake whipped up by Sutton's mom.
"Every runner is different, I always have to get out really fast to begin with," said Homme, who ran a season-best time. "And I just kept telling myself, 'Stay with them, stay with them, you're just as good as them.' "
East Lake's Alicia Aldridge (13th, 19:39) was Pinellas' only other state qualifier. The top six boys and girls teams, and top 15 individuals, earned state berths.
No county runner qualified from the 2A-3 meet held in conjunction with the 4A-2 race on the same course.