It was probably the warmest day we'll see the rest of the year. While it was plenty comfortable for those in the stands, the warmth was perhaps a bit more than the runners were acclimated to after two nasty weeks of weather following state.
On the other hand, if it felt a bit more like Arizona is going to feel, well, maybe that's a good thing.
The morning began with Frontier Academy's Sarah Ellis winning the first heat of the girls two mile. Ellis began opening a lead early and was never seriously threatened later.
It took a good deal longer for the boys first heat to reveal the eventual winner. Adam Ambuul, however, more of a 300 hurdler type in track, bided his time as the lead group whittled its way from four to three to two. Then it was just Ambuul and Joseph Kirwan. And Ambuul didn't let that last very long either, running away to a 10:48 victory.
Like the first heat of boys, the top heat of girls went through a few lead changes. Jocelyn Millican shot off to an early head while the chase pack warily gave her space. As they suspected, Millican had gone out a bit too hard and began sliding back into the jaws of the chase pack.
Before long, the chase pack was down to two contenders, Hope Stark and Sawyer Wilson. For about three laps, Stark and Wilson ran mostly shoulder-to-shoulder. On the final lap, however, Wilson turned it up a notch--maybe two--and finished with a convincing six-second margin of victory at 11:35. Wilson also had a negative split for the race.
Millican held on for third, with Air Academy's Ella Chura nipping at her heels.
Boys heat 2 looked for the longest time as if it would belong to Frontier Academy's Christian Baca. A late surge, however, by Palmer Ridge's Thomas Fry caught Baca and relegated him to second place. TCA claimed the next three places with Chandler Wilburn, Will Moore, and Landon Sheveland.
That left only one heat to contest. And it was more or less the feature heat of the event, pitting Palmer's Gus McIntyre against TCA's Mason Norman against Rampart's Ben Conlin. The last time the three had met was at the CSML meet nearly a month ago and Norman had prevailed there. But McIntyre and Conlin had run faster times at state.
For six laps, the three battled it out, gradually dropping all the other contenders. When it came to go time, however, it was Gus McIntyre who seemed to have the pop in his legs for the day.
That pop, however, gave out on the final straight as a furious charge from Ben Conlin caught and passed McIntyre in the final meters. Norman settled for third.
The funny thing is, though, that most of these match-ups renew themselves one more time in Arizona in two weeks. Today was only prelude to that.