BRADENTON — Freshman Kristin Zarrella heeded her coach’s warning to watch for a few trouble spots as she made her way through the course.
But even with Lakewood Ranch girls cross country coach Mary Quinn’s advice fresh in her mind, Zarrella still found herself starting to get caught up in a wrong turn.
Luckily for Zarrella, Saint Stephen’s Hannah Howell and the rest of her Lady Mustangs teammates were able to get her turned around and heading off into the right direction.
Zarrella’s mistake only cost a second or two as the Lakewood standout finished the grueling 3.1-mile race in first place, crossing the finish line in 19 minutes, 12.68 seconds. The rest of the Lady Mustangs quickly followed by in a blur.
Fellow freshman Olivia Ortiz finished second followed by Devin McDermott (third), Natalie Novak (fifth) and Ashley Platt (seventh). By the time Platt crossed the finish line, the Lady Mustangs had captured their fifth-consecutive Manatee County Cross Country Championship, cruising past the rest of the field Oct. 28 at Robinson Preserve.
“It was a pretty tough race,” Zarrella said. “It was really hot, but we all adapted really well and the team performed great.”
“It’s the first big step,” she said. “This is a great start. Most of the difficult meets are at the end of the season, so this is a giant step.”
It was unseasonably warm last week, and the course offered little shade for the runners, but the Lady Mustangs were able to continually pace each other throughout the race.
“This race takes a lot out of you because it seemed like I was doing a decent pace,” Zarrella said. It’s hard race, but my teammates were right behind me the entire time. They all did great.”
Four runners broke 20 minutes for the Lady Mustangs, including Novak who crossed the finish line in 19:49.27, which was 20 seconds lower than her previous personal best time.
Ortiz finished in 19:19.74, and McDermott finished in 19:20.65.
Platt finished in 20:50.68, while Kelsey Grimaldi finished 17th in 24:30.62.
“To have four girls run under 20 minutes is really wonderful,” Quinn said. “This is another stepping stone. It’s kind of for bragging rights, and we want to uphold that tradition.
“Hopefully this will give them a good frame of mind going into districts because the pressure and the competition is going to be there,” she added.
Lakewood will return to action tomorrow morning in the Class 3A-District 5 meet at Lemon Bay. The race is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].