While the Miami Belen Jesuit boys’ team returned to its familiar perch at the State Cross Country Finals on Saturday, the Pine Crest girls took another step to dynasty status with a back-to-back state championship.
Belen, which won its eighth state title under Frankie Ruiz, ended an uncharacteristic three-year state title drought in emphatic fashion, tallying 57 points to finish comfortably ahead of Tallahassee Chiles (111) and Ocala Vanguard (133) in the Class 3A race.
Ruiz, who said he had many a sleepless night trying to figure out new ways to get Belen back to the top 3A, credited the state polls, which never had his team higher than No. 3 in 3A all season for adding some fuel to its championship drive.
“Being ranked third all season fired them up a little bit,” Ruiz said. “It’s no fault of the pollsters. We proved ourselves and the kids right that we were going to compete regardless of what people thought of us. We had gone a little while without winning. I was starting to see kids graduate without a state championship, and that was driving me nuts.”
Pine Crest — behind Tsion Yared (18:00) capturing her second consecutive individual state title and leading a 1-3-4-7 finish with Maya Beleznay (18:22), Mahdere Yared (18:23) and Emily Faulhaber (18:46) — captured its second consecutive state title in Class 2A.
The Panthers victory followed a breakthrough state title last season that ended four consecutive runner-up finishes to nemesis Jacksonville Bolles.
“This really kind of shows our team that you can come back and do it the next time,” said Panthers coach Paul Baur. “Having won two in a row is an incredible feat. The target is there, and we are going for it. We are not going to worry about everybody coming after us.”
With a junior, a freshman and Yared one of five sophomores set to return, the Panthers have all the makings of a dynasty. Yared, meanwhile, proved once again that she saves her best for the biggest races, opening a sizeable lead at the 1.5-mile mark and never allowing anycontenders back in the race.
“Tsion had different things that set her back during this season, but she pushed through it,” added Baur. “Once she won regionals, I knew pretty much she had a real good chance to win states. That lifted the burden off her.”
Meanwhile, Belen senior Josh Collins, a former individual state champion, led the Wolverines’ charge, clocking a season-best 15:37 to finish second. But Collins deflected any individual praise, instead citing the Wolverines’ superior pack running that they have been known for in winning nine state titles overall.
“My teammates did a great job picking off individuals from other teams.” said Collins. “We were hunting people down. I told the team before the race that, ‘Hey, after three years of not winning state, this was the year we had to get a ‘W.’ That was the reason why we put it all out there today. We are all going to be returning except for me next year. Hopefully we can start a new winning streak.”
Braddock’s girls finished third at the Class 4A state meet this past Saturday in Tallahassee at Apalachee Regional Park and was the highest Miami-Dade finisher in the race. Senior Maria Fernandez placed 11th individually with a time of 18:51.53, which was also the highest Dade finish. Braddock’s average time of 19:52.14 was the best overall by a Dade girls’ team.
Mater Academy’s Valerie Lastra finished a Miami-Dade-best fourth in the girls’ 3A race in 18:16.
In the boys’ 4A race, Columbus’ Deshay Fernandez led an impressive showing by Dade and Broward runners by finishing second in 15:43. Austin Redondo (Coral Reef) finished fourth, Nicholas Rischar (St. Thomas Aquinas) took fifth and Coral Gables’ Cavan Wilson placed ninth.
Note: Individual results: Winners and top 30 Miami-Dade and Broward finishers. Team results: Winners and Miami-Dade and Broward team finishes.
1A Boys’ individuals: 1. Trevor Foley (CP) 15:47; 2. Ryan Szklany (HC) 15:55; Reilly May (PT) 16:59. 2A Boys’ individuals: 1. Charles Hicks (Bolles) 15:16; 4. Danny Ferro (CalvChr) 15:43; 20. Gabriel Ortega (PC) 16:27; 21. Thomas Rodriguez (AM) 16:33; 20. James Cusack (RE) 16:45. 3A Boys’ individuals: 1. Michael Phillips (Chiles) 15:14; 2. Joshua Collins (MBJ) 15:39; 16. Lucas De La Hoz (MBJ) 16:32; 17. Adam Magoulas (MBJ) 16:32; 18. Sebastian Roa (MBJ) 16:34; Cesar Aguzzi (MBJ) 16:38; 26. Diego Gomez (MBJ) 16:42. 4A Boys’ individuals: 1. Benjamin Hartvigsen (Sarasota) 15:39, 2. Danny Fernandes (Columbus) 15:43, 4. Austin Redondo (Coral Reef) 15:48, 5. Nicholas Rischar (STA) 15:53, 9. Cavan Wilson (Coral Gables) 15:57, 15. Hunter Dobbs (Coral Reef) 16:11, 20. Eliseo Torres (Braddock) 16:18, Aidan Breslin (STA) 16:22,25. Isaac Louigene (CS) 16:24, 30. Guillermo Rojas (Ferguson) 16:31.
Boys’ team results — 1A: 1. Mount Dora Christian 105; 19. Westminster Academy 389; 22. Florida Christian 561; 2A: 1. Jacksonville Bolles 45; 13. Ransom Everglades 350; 18. Calvary Christian 422. 3A: 1. Miami Belen Jesuit 57; 22. Miami Doral 531. 4A: 1. Oviedo 99, 3. St. Thomas Aquinas 157, 6. Columbus 250, 8. Ferguson 264, 10. Miami Coral Park 286, 13. Coral Reef 314, 16. Braddock 344, 21. Coral Springs 464. 1A
Girls’ individuals — 1A: 1. Grace Blair (OH) 18:15; 16. Claire Kennedy (WC) 19:49; 20. Lauren McGaffic (MCD) 20:00; 27. Jasmine Hincapie (WA) 20:11; 2A: 1. Tsion Yared (PC) 18:00; 3. Maya Beleznay (PC) 18:22; 4. Mahdere Yared (PC) 18:23; 7. Emily Faulhaber (PC) 18:46; 8. Natalie Varela (GP) 18:52; 30. Cassie Lawlor (PC) 19:33. 3A: 1. Ana Wallace (Chiles) 17:43; 4. Valerie Lastra (Mater Academy) 18:16; 4A: 1. Bailey Hertenstein (Newsome) 17:26; 10. Bridget Alex (STA) 18:48; 11. Maria Fernandez (Braddock) 18:51; 12. Valentina House (STA) 18:53; 15. Rebecca Bergnes (Miami Braddock) 19:04; 21. Jordan Shapiro (Miami Palmetto) 19:19; 25. Alana Batista (Lourdes) 19:30; 30. Ana Rodriguez (Ferguson) 19:36.
Girls’ team results — 1A: 1. Winer Park Circle Christian 72; 11. Miami Country Day 326; 15. Westminster Academy 389; 18. Westminster Christian 420. 2A: Pine Crest 33; 2. Bolles 53; 8. Cardinal Gibbons 294; 9. Ransom Everglades 299. 3A: 1. Chiles 30; 16. Miami Northwester 409; 21. Mater Academy 480; 23. Dillard 483. 4A: 1. Winter Park 136; 3. Braddock 172; 5. Lourdes 191; 7. St. Thomas Aquinas 249; 17. Miami Ferguson 395; 21. Douglas 516; 23. Cypress Bay 561; 24. Coral Gables 659.