From beginning to end Thursday morning, Decatur’s Taylor Clayton owned the course at Joe Wheeler Park.
The senior increased his lead throughout the race, knocking off his rival from Sanger, Jacob Perry, to take individual honors at the District 9-3A Cross Country Championships.
Clayton clocked a 15:28 to Perry’s 16:05. Sanger’s Quinten Cassaday took third in 16:47.
The top 10 finishers and top three teams advance to the Region II Championships Nov. 2 at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie.
“I wanted to get in the 15:20’s today,” Clayton said. “Ultimately I wanted to beat Jacob [Perry].”
The two are rivals in both cross country and track. Perry led the No. 2-ranked Indians into the postseason after they clinched the team championship Thursday.
Clayton says he had no idea of the gap he had created during the race.
“I had no clue,” he said. “I just kept telling myself if you look back he might be coming and that’s when you’re going to die. That’s the first time I’ve beaten him.
“He’s a kicker and I’m a pacer. I knew I had to put some distance between me and him – and that’s what I did.”
At the first mile marker, Clayton was at 4:37, and Decatur coach David Park knew his top runner was on his way to something special.
“He came to run today, and I felt that he would,” Park said. “Anytime you run 15:28 – that’s major college stuff.
“I get to see it in workouts and you get this feeling when you think they are going to bust loose. He’s getting his legs fresh now because it’s championship season.”
Clayton’s performance may be a scary omen for any of his competitors the remainder of the season. He feels he’ll be even stronger by the time the regional meet rolls around Nov. 2.
“I didn’t totally put basketball out this week, so I’m not as fresh-legged as I’m going to be,” Clayton said. “I still have good workouts ahead that will put some speed under my feet. I’m going to run as fast as I can every time.”