A girl named Sarah from Evangelical Christian won the Triton Cross Country Invitational Saturday, but she’s not the Sarah you’re thinking of. Sarah MacBeath, normally the Sentinels’ No. 2 runner, ran an impressive wire-to-wire race in 20 minutes and 5 seconds on a course at Mariner High School.
“I felt like I had to push a lot harder to get a good time,” said MacBeath, who plans to visit Indiana Wesleyan University next week.
The other Sarah — Sarah Candiano — was at the flrunners.com Invitational 13 in the Race of Champions. Candiano, who finished fourth in the flrunners.com race last year, took 11th Saturday with a time of 18:42.
Sarah MacBeath, however, enjoyed an open road the whole way at Mariner. She immediately jumped out ahead of the pack before the 21-school field crowded into a bottleneck.
Then she slowly built her lead. At the 1-mile mark, she led two Lemon Bay runners by over 10 seconds.
After two miles, it was closer to 15. Striding for the last 200 meters, she took bigger steps on the last 100, finishing with a 16-second lead.
With nobody close behind her, MacBeath had to resist the temptation to relax.
“But Lemon Bay, they’re awesome. I knew they were going to kick at the end, so I had to give it everything I had,” MacBeth said.
Miguel Casiano of Lehigh led Lee County runners in the boys race with a 16:43 finish for third. He stayed close to Golden Gate’s Alex Pedraza and LaBelle’s Erick Medina for the first two and a half miles, but Pedraza took off on the last half mile.
The course is a single loop that makes a circuit around the Mariner campus and shoots off for a one-mile straightaway in the grass along Tropicana Parkway.
After a U-turn, runners head straight back for about two thirds of a mile, then reenter the campus and run for almost a full lap on the track to the finish line.
“When you’re on the straightaway, it’s mental,” Casiano said. “You’ve got to focus on who you’re trying to get and your pace. You don’t want to die out on the straightaway.”
The course is flat, but with dew on the grass that humid morning, it was harder to maintain a good footing, especially during the earlier girls race. Driveway crossings, creating a quick change from grass to pavement and back again, added a degree of difficulty, as well.
With the 8:30 a.m. start and few clouds, the sun shone down on the course for the whole meet. There was a slight easterly breeze that gave runners a headwind on the long straightaway.
“It was pretty cool,” MacBeath said. “It just started getting hot at around the two-mile mark.”