DADE CITY — At last, Saturday morning finally felt like cross country season, as evidenced by the dipping temperature and running times.
The rushes of overdue cool air whipping across the rural Pasco County countryside served as a harbinger of the brisk paces logged by several locals in the Prestate Classic at Little Everglades Ranch — site of next month's state meet.
Whether it was Chamberlain senior Mark Parrish eclipsing the 16-minute barrier, or Sickles' Julian Gines, Berkeley Prep's Tyler Greathouse and Newsome's Brianna Jackson eclipsing their personal bests, Saturday served notice that autumn — and a few locals — have arrived just in time for the postseason.
"Great course conditions," said Greathouse, 14th in the boys elite race (16 minutes, 1.28 seconds), the two-day festival's most prestigious event. "Perfect weather, overcast and cool. I don't know any better race conditions, so I was happy."
Posting the fastest local effort was Parrish, who engaged the boys elite race leaders in a breakneck opening pace on the hilly Little Everglades course and held on for a solid seventh-place showing (15:42.97). Rising sophomore teammate Max del Monte (16:09.04) was 20th.
Tallahassee Leon's Matt Mizereck, the defending 3A state champ, won in 15:20.44, pulling away from Creekside's Jimmy Clark for a 3-second triumph.
"It was one of my better ones this season," said Parrish, third at last season's 3A meet. "I felt really good the first mile, decided I was strong enough to make an attack. It didn't play out in the end, but I felt like I put in a real hard effort, and that's all I came to do."
Meantime, Greathouse, a five-time state qualifier who has run this course eight times, beat his performance in last year's 1A state meet by 30 seconds.
"I was kind of worried about my own race," he said. "But I didn't want to lose control and be out in no-man's land."
No Hillsborough County runner challenged in the girls elite race, though Jackson, a 14-year-old freshman who moved from Illinois earlier this year, placed 33rd in 19:44.10. Plant had four runners in the top 61 and came within one frightening finish-line scene of having five.
Panthers sophomore Molly Harry (82nd, 20:48.82) collapsed 5 yards shy of the finish line before getting to her feet and crossing just as her legs gave out again. A first-year runner who won last month's West Hillsborough Invitational, Harry was treated on scene and exited the course on her own power.
Elsewhere, Gines had the area's highest finish with a fifth-place effort (16:36.36) in the boys large schools race. King's Dayna Cline was seventh (20:07.20) in the girls large schools race.
"I was just trying to (run a personal record), have a good time," Gines said. "That's about it. I was just going for a good time, and I did it. It's a tough course. Those hills are a killer."