TALLAHASSEE -- It wasn’t the race Belen Jesuit cross-country coach Frankie Ruiz was used to.
Actually, it made him a little nervous watching his Wolverines’ boys’ team so spread apart during Saturday morning’s Class 3A state final at Apalachee Regional Park.
“It was a little too much space for my taste,” Ruiz said. “We like to keep it a little tighter, but the guys at the front kind of packed it up.”
It really didn’t matter, however, as Belen crushed Fort Walton Beach by 85 points in claiming its sixth state title in seven years and seventh championship overall.
“We like to say it’s the 42 years of running we’ve had at Belen and all the alumni following us,” Ruiz said. “Everything we add to the trophy case just means more to the people that have come before us than these guys. It’s more than just them.”
Senior Avery Lopez was the first Wolverine to cross, taking fourth place in 15:37. Niceville’s Thomas Howell took the individual title.
Michael Magoulas (seventh, 15:45), Fabian Tomas (eighth, 15:49) and Ryan Rodriguez (10th, 15:50) posted low-point totals, and Belen only needed to wait for Andres Fernandez to cross in 36th place (16:21) in order to begin celebrating.
“The goal was to get out quick as a team and hit the first mile under 4:50,” Lopez said. “We did that, kept moving up, tried to stay together and looked for gold. That was the goal [Saturday].”
In 2A action, Ransom Everglades’ boys finished fourth, led by Gaby Correa’s 10th-place individual result in 16:23, slightly ahead of teammate Jan Bergengruen, who came in 12th.
“That was the hardest race I’ve ever run,” Correa said. “Four out of our top five [earned personal records] today. We did the best we could.”
Ransom freshman Lauren Archer grabbed sixth place in the girls’ race, crossing in 18:56. The team finished seventh. All tried to get used to the new state course.
The first thing to catch Belen off-guard was the chilly weather, but the team tried to rectify that as quick as possible, heading to the mall to get more clothing.
That’s a wise decision because the Wolverines now head to Cary, N.C., for next Saturday’s Nike Cross Country Regionals, where they are the defending champs.
“It’s completely different than Miami,” Lopez said. “It was 70 degrees when we left Miami. It was 40 here. We got layered up and tried to get in the right mindset. And we got the win.”
Class 4A boys’ team scores (Top 3 plus Dade): 1. Colonial 58; 2. Jacksonville Mandarin 108; 3. St. Thomas Aquinas 127; 4. Sunset 138; 6. Columbus 175; 12. Ferguson 365; 16. Coral Reef 432; 21. Varela 481; 22. Coral Park 573.
Class 4A girls’ team scores (Top 3 plus Dade): 1. St. Thomas Aquinas 59; 2. Tampa Plant 86; 3. Orlando Olympia 108; 5. Ferguson 154; 8. Lourdes 262; 13. Coral Reef 326; 16. South Dade 369; 23. Coral Park 632; 24. Coral Gables 769.
Class 4A boys’ individual results (Winner plus Dade in top 50): 1. Andres Arroyo (Colonial) 15:18.95; 3. Daniel Fernandez (COL) 15:43.29; 5. Nick Diaz (SUN) 15:45.96; 7. Kenneth Castro (SUN) 15:54.71; 15. Fabian Delgado (KIL) 16:09.30; 37. Ronny Greenup (SUN) 16:40.81; 38. Kurt Convey (CR) 16:41.03; 40. Giovanni Herrera (FER) 16:42.29; 41. Malik Gunter (SUN) 16:42.94; 43. Patrick Cabrera (COL) 16:43.07; 44. Daniel Linares (COL) 16:43.28; 45. Pedro Hernandez (COL) 16:43.43.