DADE CITY — The five girls ran together into a chilled wind and into the homestretch at Little Everglades Ranch. With the finish line in sight, the lead pack clanged elbows as each runner calculated when to kick, when to wait and how to win.
St. Petersburg's Alex Eaton was trailing the pack. But she still had plenty in reserve. Showing stamina and determination, Eaton surged ahead with a searing kick as she turned the 3.1-mile race into a sprint to the finish.
Eaton, a freshman, won the girls large-school race at the Little Everglades Prestate meet in 19 minutes, 10 seconds, shaving 35 seconds off her previous personal best.
"I really surprised myself with how well I did," Eaton said. "I thought I could go maybe 19:30 or 19:20. I like this course, and I was able to stay with the pack, make a run and pass everyone at the end."
In the girls small-schools race, Northside Christian's Katelyn Greenleaf took third (times were not made available). Greenleaf was hoping to stay with Fort Myers Canterbury's Emily Edwards throughout the race and make a move at the end.
Edwards, though, dictated the pace by sprinting to a commanding lead. Greenleaf was within striking distance through most of the race but did not have enough to stay in contention for the win.
"Emily takes it out pretty fast," Greenleaf said. "I was gunning for her at the last hill, but I was having some tense cramps in my shoulders, which was uncomfortable. Still, I should be able to run through that."
The Mustang girls had three runners in the top 25 and finished fifth overall in the small-schools team standings, the highest placement among Pinellas County teams. Northside also had the best showing among county boys' teams, finishing sixth in the small-schools race.
On Friday, Osceola's Alex Irwin took fourth in the varsity girls race in 19:30. Northeast's Amanda Spring (20:87) was 10th in the large-schools race.