It was a stacked field in the girls invitational 1600m at Florida Relays on Friday. With a few of the top 1600m athletes in the state, the champion was going to come from a battle to the finish line.
Mater Academy junior, Valerie Lastra, took the race out in an expected quick 69 second quarter with East Lake junior, Parker Valby, right behind. Lastra and Valby remained the leaders going through the half at 2:23 with Rylee Pustilnik, Jordan Shapiro, and Kerrigan McGreevy in a small pack cruising behind them.
After a 74 second lap, the two juniors decided to pick it up the pace a bit and start to challenge one another. As they crossed the line for the third lap, Lastra took the lead on the outside and Valby accepted the challenge -- running stride for stride and finishing up the third lap in a solid 72 seconds.
Valby took a short lead with 150m to go of the third quarter and Lastra knew that if she was going to win the race it would take a quick last lap. As the bell rung, Lastra took off in her kick and Valby remained within striking distance.
Lastra kicked it in with a 70 second last quarter to win the race, set a new personal record, and run a US No. 2 time of 4:47.05 with Valby right behind in 4:50.59 -- another outstanding PR for the junior.
Here's where it gets interesting. The next time Lastra, Valby, and Stone race one another will be the state meet. All three ladies will represent 3A and will battle for the 1600m state title if they all decide to run the event.
With a performance like this one this past weekend, we can expect it to be fast race as none of these ladies have indicated to be "tactical" athletes as they consistently race to win from the gun.