NEWHALL — Oswaldo Servin of Cal State Northridge and Antonio Arce of the University of Notre Dame expected the 15th Independence Day Classic 5K Run on Friday would be a low-pressure way to get in a high-quality workout.
Instead the two staged a tense duel over the final kilometer of the course, before Servin crossed the finish line at the 15-minute mark, followed two seconds later by Arce.
"I felt pretty tired," Servin said of the race's final stages. "I wasn't planning on picking it up at the end. The only reason I did was because Antonio Arce was right behind me."
Servin and Arce led a pack of 432 runners, male and female, young and old, who covered a course from Newhall Memorial Park to the William S. Hart High School track.
The course wound through residential neighborhoods north of the high school before heading south along Orchard Village Road and then turning east onto usually busy Lyons Avenue.
Spectators, most of whom were staking out prime viewing spots for the annual Fourth of July parade, waved American flags as the runners passed.
Although the race started at 9 a.m., the runners encountered temperatures in the low 90s.
"I usually don't take water in races," said Darcy Arreola of Valencia, who won the women's division. "But I did today. I splashed a cup on my face and I was like, 'I need more.' "
Servin, who will be a senior at Northridge in the fall, was the first runner to turn onto Lyons after leading the field through the one-mile mark in 4:35. He had a seven-second lead over Arce when he passed two miles in 9:36.
Arce rallied and cut Servin's deficit to three seconds with 1,000 meters left and closed in after they headed west on Lyons toward Hart.
"I wasn't surprised when he came up on me," Servin said. "I could see him getting closer to me when I made some of the turns toward the end of the race."
Arce, who was the 1994 state Division II cross-country champion as a Palmdale High senior, stayed behind Servin until there were approximately 500 meters left. Then he surged into the lead.
Arce figured he'd wear Servin down with his aggressive move. But Servin wrested the lead back and withstood a furious charge by Arce in the last 75 meters of the race.
"He went by me, but then he slowed down," said Servin, a 1994 graduate of Fillmore High. "So I took off."
Behind Servin and Arce was Jed Colvin, a former Cal Lutheran University distance runner who finished third in 15:40, followed by 42-year-old Richard Burns in fourth at 15:46 and 17-year-old Justin Patananan in fifth at 15:55.
Burns is a 1973 graduate of Hart High and Patananan will be a senior at Highland High School in Palmdale in the fall.
Arreola, a former standout distance runner at Cal State Northridge, posted an easy victory in the women's division with a time of 17:25.
Jennifer Overlock of Cal State Northridge was second at 18:52, and former Canyon High standout Robin Heidt was third at 19:37.
Arreola, the 1991 NCAA champion in the 1,500-meter race for Northridge, completed her first mile in 5:07 and finished 20th overall.
Her time was well off the women's course record of 16:35 that she set in 1991, but she said she was pleased with it because she is only running four days a week due to a sore left knee and a busy work schedule.
"I was just hoping to run under 18 [minutes]," she said. "So [17:25] is OK."