With about a mile left in the race, Lake Wales senior Andy Denton began to feel that this just wasn't going to be his race as Tampa Robinson's Ethan Geiger began to pull away.
Still, Denton ran the third-best time of his career of 15:39.2 and finished second in the Class 3A boys race on Saturday at the 2019 FHSAA Cross Country Championships at Apalachee State Park in Tallahassee.
"It was a really tough race," Denton said. "I gave it my all."
Denton was disappointed in not winning but he improved from seventh to second from last year and lowered his time at the state meet by about 17 seconds.
The Highlanders placed two runners in the top 10 as junior Mac Updike ran 16:11.9 to finish seventh.
Lake Wales finished ninth as a team. Landon Morales was the Highlanders' No. 3 runner in 31st place. He ran 16:41.7, just five seconds of he's personal-best time.
Ladarius Tellis, who is usually Lake Wales' No. 3 runner, had an off day and finished well back. A normal day by Tellis could have bumped Lake Wales as high as fifth.
The Lakeland Christian girls had the best team finish for any Polk team, boys or girls. The Vikings finished fourth overall, led by freshman Gretchen Caswell, who turned in an excellent performance.
Caswell broke under 20 minutes for the first time in her career and finished ninth with a personal-best 19:41.7.
Lauren Bayes was 11th and ran 19:46.8, which was also a personal-best time.
LCS got excellent times out of its top five runners as Sarah Bayes (37th) was just five seconds off her season-best time, while Emma Green (66th) and Jayden Bayes (68th) each ran personal-best times.
"We were ranked seventh going in, and I thought if all the girls ran well, four was the best we could do, and we did it," LCS coach Milton Lyons said. "All the girls majorly stepped up. All the girls peaked at the right time."
Lakeland Christian senior Seth Martinez had his best result at the state meet. He finished 10th in 16:24.7.
As a team, the Vikings finished ninth.
It was mixed results in Class 4A for the George Jenkins girls. Alicia Ruiz, who was second last year, and Anna Sentner went out too fast and faded a bit, especially Ruiz, but head coach Dale Meskimen was pleased with the progression of his other five runners. Overall, the Eagles had four runners run under 20 minutes and had six runners in the high 20s and under.
"It's not like we ran horrible," he said. "Overall, I'm not disappointed."
Sentner was the Eagles' top runner. She ran 19.21.4 to finish 27th.
George Jenkins finished ninth overall.
Ruiz faded to 55th overall in 19:49.7.
No. 3 runner Kayleigh Malick and No. 4 Isabell Miller were each within six seconds or less of their personal-best times.
Cristal Gomez capped her sophomore season with a 15th-place finish in the girls 2A race. She ran 19:08.5.
McKeel had the only girls team in the 2A competition and finished 19th out of 32 teams. Emma Nales-Torchio was the top runner for the Wildcats. She took 36th place in 19:50.5.
For the boys, McKeel finished 23rd with Isaac Morrison finishing 27th in 16:50.3.
In other results, Auburndale finished 28th in the boys team competition in Class 3A. The Bloodhounds were led by Jamill Vazquez, who finished 66th in 17:09.9
For the girls, Auburndale's Kya Cadieu ran 20:20.7 to finish 61st overall as the only Polk runner in the race.
Roy Fuoco can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-802-7526. Follow him on Twitter: @RoyFuoco.