Clark, Blair Bring Back Individual Honors, Satellite Sweeps Team Trophies At Alligator Lake Invite

The 8th Annual Alligator Lake Invitational left some of the coaches and athletes disappointed with the depth of the fields. Bolles, and George Steinbrenner were two teams that did not run their varsity teams in the invite race. However, the festive atmosphere, the quick course and well run event left many teams coming away with good feeling for the rest of the season.

In the first race of the day, Grace Blair took the lead shortly after the one mile mark and held that for the entire race. Behind her, Creekside freshman Claire Openshaw bided her time and made up ground throughout the race coming just four seconds off Blair's winning time.

"I kept hearing 'she's 20 meters, 40 meters behind you,'" said Blair who recorded her first win of the season in a time of 19:35.73. "I didn't really have a plan, but my coach told me to not be surprised if I were leading and following the lead cart." 

For Blair, it was a bit unusual for her to take the lead and hold it. The junior is in her sixth year of running and it was only last year that she debuted in the two mile on the track- an 11:26.72 for 9
th place at the Florida Relays. Learning to run up front is a work in progress for the middle distance bent junior. "I like to have someone to hang on to the hip to. It was interesting [Leading]. You have to be in tune with how you are feeling and everyone else is feeling. You can't just hang on."

For a frosh, Openshaw ran like a veteran erasing a deficit and running a new personal best time of 19:39.27.

"I was trying to keep her [Blair] in my sight and not lose track of her," said an unassuming Openshaw. "Towards the end I felt I was closing on her. I wish I would have started that [kick] sooner."

Openshaw is an up and comer and should continue to cut her time over the next seven weeks and in time for a great run at state.

The girl's team race turned out to be a great team battle between #3 Class 2A ranked Satellite and #2, Class 1A ranked Eagle girls who were separated by a scant four points-60-64. 

Satellite's Laura Rukab took seventh with Julia Ryan, Marie Groppel, Anique Kattenberg, and Brianna Basford all finishing ahead of Oak Hall's third, fourth and fifth runners to offset Blair's lone point.

"Edwin's done a great job with Oak Hall so it was close on the girl's side" said Scorpion's Head Coach Doug Butler. "We're not where I would hope we would be at this point, but we are getting there."

Butler has hit his stride at Satellite. His team has grown from 13 to 45 total runners and the parent support was evident as there were many red and white clad shirts seen throughout the course. In two weeks he takes his teams to North Carolina for the Great American, and then it's on to Prestate.

Oak Hall's Marcella Perez, Emma Rembert, Harrison Grooms, and Lauren Perry all finished in the top twenty to nearly pull off the upset. Two of the Eagles top runners are not running this year- Lindsay Rosenberg transferred to a school out of state and Nadiria Evans is not running this year.  Despite that, Head Coach Edwin McTureous was pleased with his harriers which includes two seniors-Perez and Perry.

"I was really pleased with their performance," said McTureous. "This was the first week we had our full team after college testing for our seniors and injuries."

Columbia's Bridget Morse finished third in the girl's race with a time of 19 minutes and 47.69 seconds. Morse has been out for three weeks after crashing her car into a tree and breaking her arm - it was month and three days after receiving her license.

"I was a bit disappointed," said Morse who still sports a scar on her right arm. " These times are not at the level I was expecting to be at. I'm going to have to build up again."

The boys invite race saw a huge pack of 12 runners run together for the first 2.5k before the field was whittled down to four by 3k. 

"When we came around on the second loop, the Satellite guy[Cacciatore] made a move and I went with him, " said eventual winner Matthew Clark of Creekside. " We kind of looked at each other and no one wanted to take the lead. I thought it was time to make a move so I did on the backstretch."

Clark easily opened a gap racing to a seven second gap and a time of 15:51.35.

"I wanted to take it out comfortably and then battle over the last mile, "said Clark, who committed to Florida this past week. "It did feel comfortable and I know I can definitely pick it up."

Clark was quick to credit senior teammate Deal for his racing.

Deal closed a three second gap on McFetridge over the last 400 meters to finish second in 15:58.67- it was a personal best by one second set in his tenth grade year.

"We went out comfortably in 5:08. Then we even split that the next mile," said Deal who cited better sleeping and eating habits for his performance." When I saw McFetridge that last stretch, I knew I could get him."

McFetridge nearly missed his bus before the meet. A mere three minutes later, and he would have be left in the Buchholz parking lot. This past summer, he spent four weeks in New Zealand though he was only able to train towards the end of his stint due to injury.

His time of 15 minutes and 59.73 seconds was his best time of the season and he was upbeat about his race and the season.

"That's happen to me the last two races, "said McFetridge of being passed in the last mile. " Each race I tend to get a little bit better. Come November for the state meet, when it gets a bit chilly, I'll be ready."

Creekside's 1-2 finish wasn't enough to fend off Satellite as the Scorpions seven runners finished in the top 17 to secure an insurmountable 34 point win-40-74.

"Satellite has a strong team," said Creekside Head Coach Eric Frank. "They crushed us."

For Butler, the trip served as an opportunity to race in better weather and on a fast course. He hopes his boys' team can finish in the top three at Great American and do well at PreState.

"We did some hard thousands this week and will probably do the same next week," said Butler. "We may back off for Great American and see how we do."

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