Gator grinds out first-place finish

Land O'Lakes' Felix Soto notches his first prep win, finishing in under 17 minutes.

Published October 14, 2006

HUDSON - Felix Soto experienced some unique emotions Friday morning.

He took pride in setting the pace and felt confident leading most of the way. Most races he followed a handful of opponents. The best part was sprinting down a swath of wet grass into a bowl of cheers.

Soto crossed the finish for his first high school win and claimed the SAC title with a time of 16:55. Teammate Jake Proudfoot was second (17:09) and Ridgewood senior Steven Landreth third (17:19), posting his best time of the season.

"(Proudfoot) actually pushed me and I thank him for that," Soto said.

In team competition, the Gators defended their conference title with a low score of 49 points. Mitchell (91) was second followed by Ridgewood (96).

The focus was on the battle between Soto, Proudfoot and how Landreth disrupted Land O'Lakes' pack mentality.

The Gators clearly had the edge in terms of course knowledge. Soto said he has run at Crews Lake Park seven times. When Landreth wouldn't let up, the Gators' top runners set a fast pace.

"I was just trying to stick with the top guy, which I knew was going to be Soto," Landreth said. "He ran pretty well and the pace was pretty fast. Him and Proudfoot were working together trying to block me off. It was rough. As I was trying to catch up to Soto, Proudfoot would jump in front of me and not let me go."

Proudfoot said the start of the race was too fast, noting this was the second-fastest first mile he had run.

"(Felix) ran great," Proudfoot said. "It was hard trying to keep up with him because he set a fast pace. He deserves the win. He's been working hard as long as I've known him."