A few minutes passed between the first group to cross the finish line during the boys elite portion of the Bradenton Runners Club XC Invitational before Marcel Sanchez came down the damp final stretch of the G.T. Bray Course to finish the 5K run in 17:38.2.
Less than two seconds behind him was a Manatee teammate.
Sanchez and Matthew Lyons finished fourth and fifth, respectively, to help the Canes cross country team earn one of its two top-five finishes. Manatee’s boys finished third with 112 points, 10 points ahead of fourth-place Seminole Osceola and more than 30 points behind second-place North Port.
“It’s the beginning of the season,” said Sanchez, whose fourth-place finish was best among boys from Manatee County. “I feel like I can do better after a while. Especially if my teammates keep on pushing me, we’ll get down to those low times as a team.”
Manatee’s Raquel Lespasio matched Sanchez on the girls side, finishing fourth in 20:57.5. Teammate Alison Ecker finished 6.4 seconds later for the county’s only other top-10 individual finish in the elite division. On the strength of Lespasio and Ecker, the Hurricanes finished fifth with 99 points. Braden River’s girls finished sixth with 171.
Lespasio wound up finishing more than a minute-and-a-half later than the winner, Sarasota’s Sage Lyons, but she kept pace for most of the first two miles. Lyons cracked the 20-minute mark and Sarasota Riverview’s Elayna Goodman, who finished second, flirted with it on a soft course in heavy, humid air.
“I felt really good like the first two miles,” Lespasio said. “The last half mile it was pure just going for it until the end, but there was no one really in front of me because the top three girls were super fast and just way ahead.”
Southeast ran four girls in the elite event, but did not have a team score because five were needed. The Seminole boys finished ninth in the boys invitational division.
Saint Stephen’s boys fielded a team in the elite division, finishing eighth with 167 points. Cardinal Mooney finished seventh with 174 points, led by Tyler Ross’ seventh-place finish.
Palmetto’s girls finished second in the girls invitational division, which had a slower cut-off time, and the Cougars finished seventh. The Out-of-Door Academy boys finished third in the boys invitational, Bayshore finished seventh, Bradenton Christian finished eighth and the Pirates finished 10th to join the ninth-place Noles.