When it comes to collecting BCAA cross-country championships trophies, there is St. Thomas Aquinas and everybody else fighting for second.
Sparked by runaway victories from Manny Velasquez and Alexa Cruz, the Raiders reminded any prospective challengers that Aquinas’ BCAA reign was never in question by cruising to the boys’ and girls’ titles at Markham Park on Friday.
Raiders coach Trish Butler was all smiles after leading her boys’ team to its eighth consecutive BCAA title and the girls’ team to its seventh in the past nine years.
“It is good because we are trying to raise the competition level of the county,” Butler said. “It makes us work harder. Nothing is a given. You can sit there and see where you are on paper. In eight years to establish where we are right now, it’s just hard work.”
Velasquez, who has battled back from three stress fractures and a fractured toe, finished in 15:57 after a surge at the two-mile mark that Pines Charter’s Andrew Iglesias, another contender and 2011 BCAA champion, never answered.
What was setting up as a three-way finish with Velasquez, Iglesias and Iglesias’ teammate, Carlos Penaranda, running shoulder to shoulder through the 1.5-mile mark changed dramatically with Velasquez making his decisive kick.
“With a mile left Andy tried to make a move and I responded,” Velasquez said. “He responded again and I responded again and then he didn’t fight back. So I was the lucky one today. I’m not known to have the best 200 kick, so I had to kick with 800 meters to 1,000 meters left. I was very surprised.”
After Velasquez’ final surge, Iglesias inexplicably stopped running and didn’t finish the race. Penaranda faded to fifth place in 16:53.
“My legs were feeling dead,” Penaranda said. “This Monday and Wednesday we had really, really hard workouts, they were taxing. I guess they just took a toll on me this week. I have a feeling it as the same for Andy. Andy was here to win it. I was here to win it or come behind him.”
Coral Glades’ Anthony Deleva, the 2012 Broward Boys runner of the year, figured to be in the running for a fourth-place finish until Iglesias and Penaranda fell off the pace. Deleva capitalized on his fortune to finish second in 16:36.
“I was going for the win but it didn’t turn out like I wanted,” Deleva said. “I saw Andrew just stop in the middle of the race. There was no one around me so it was just about me finishing second. I saw Manuel take off. He was going crazy fast.”
Nova’s Tomas Gimenez-Beron put on a burst with 40 meters left for a surprising fourth-place finish in 16:49.
The Aquinas’ boys team lived up to its No. 1 ranking in the FACA Class 4A state poll by going 1-3-6-7 behind Velasquez, Bryce Statham (16:49), Joseph Maus (16:56), Alexander Haugen (17:02) and Matthew Butler (17:04), the 2012 BCAA champion, to beat runner up Pines Charter by a whopping 65 points.
Cruz is half way to what would be a record four consecutive BCAA titles by cruising to victory in 18:57. It was a bounce-back race for Cruz, who finished 27th in 18:27 at the FSU Pre-State Invitational last Saturday.
“It would be very important to win four straight,’’ Cruz said. “I want to keep the tradition, I guess, legacy going. I just want to be faster each year. It shows me where I am doing in the season.”
The only question left on the girls’ side was who would follow Cruz across the finish line.
Fans anticipating a down-to-the-wire finish between Cypress Bay’s Katherine MacNeal and Aquinas’ Brianna Rischar got their answer when MacNeal outsprinted Rischar with 30 meters left to finish in 19:27.
The Raiders girls team, (tied for the No. 2 spot in the FACA poll) went 1-3-4-5-6 with Cruz, Rischar (19:29), Megan Schloss (20:06), Christina Kalis (20:21) and Marina Braynon-Moore (20:36) combining for a staggering meet-low total of 19 points.
•Coral Springs Charter 76, Pompano Beach 0:
Joe McChrystal accounted for four touchdowns as the Crusaders (8-1, 6-1 Southeastern district) rolled past Pompano Beach (2-6, 1-6) at Coral Glades High.
Kalen Carson rushed six times for 101 yards and two scores. He also added 25 yards through the air and a touchdown.
Defensively, David Vazzola was a menace for the Crusaders, registering seven tackles, a sack and an interception return for a touchdown.
•Westminster Christian d. Naples Lely 25-13, 25-17:
Nikkia Benitez 5 kills, 2 digs. Kelsey Taylor 18 assists, 12 digs, 2 aces. Susie Forbes 8 digs, 3 aces, 8 service points.
•Westminster d. Ferguson 25-10, 25-15:
Sylvia Hernandez 13 kills, 3 aces, 11 digs. Jenny Ceballos 7 kills, 14 assists, 6 digs. Courtney Clausell 4 kills, 2 blocks.
•Westminster d. Gulf Coast 25-13, 25-11:
Kat Salgado 4 kills, block. Quinn Blanco 5 assists, 4 digs. Jess Moo Young 8 service points, 6 digs. WC 18-3.
Cardinal Gibbons vs. Jackson (Traz), 7:00