Sunset junior runner Nick Diaz was consistently victorious this season.
Belen Jesuit’s runners have known little else for the past four seasons.
Both came up with major victories Saturday that highlighted a strong day for Miami-Dade County cross-country runners at the state championships at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.
Belen won the county’s lone team title in the event, running away with the Class 3A boys’ state championship — its fourth consecutive state championship and seventh in the past eight seasons.
With the Wolverines’ eighth state title overall, Belen moves into tie with Jacksonville Bishop Kenny for the second-most team championships in state history. Largo has the most with 10. Belen was the only team to average a time under 16 minutes as a team at the event.
“This was the hardest season for us in the past four years,” Belen coach Frankie Ruiz said. “These guys proved themselves again running the fastest team average time in the state of any team.”
One race later, Diaz made history for his school and ended one of the county’s longest droughts in the sport.
Diaz ran a time of 15:22.90 to win the Class 4A boys’ individual title, becoming Sunset’s first individual champion in the 33-year history of the program. He is also Miami-Dade County’s first individual champion since 2011 when Ransom Everglades’ Bert Irigoyen and Belen’s Elliot Clemente each brought home state titles.
Diaz is also Dade’s first public school individual champion since Central’s Kevin Hicks did it in 2002. Diaz won every major race he ran in this season preparing him for his historic achievement. Sunset finished fifth as a team, giving the Knights their second consecutive top-5 finish at state.
“To me it shows that you work so hard to become a state champ and you progress so much to get there,” Diaz said. “The difference this year was being very mentally strong. My coaches and teammates have taught me so much, and I’ve been listening to them making sure I do all the little things right.”
Belen had to overcome adversity and rely on a team of solid runners to keep its championship streak alive. Junior Ryan Rodriguez finished fifth in 15:29.87, and Fabian Tomas (12th) Michael Magoulas (16th), Alexander Isaac (30th) and Joshua Collins (31st) placed in the top 50.
The Wolverines overcame the loss of No. 3 runner Andy Fernandez to injury early in the season and a rare loss at the Pre-State Invitational last month. Ruiz said Magoulas overcame a stress fracture sustained during the spring and credited Collins, an eighth-grader, for boosting the team late in the season.
“The race itself we ran our style starting strong early and closed out strong,” Ruiz said. “[Collins] stepped up real well and gave us a nice infusion of energy. This was one was tougher than most, and I think that’s why we’ll remember it more.”
Coral Reef’s boys nearly pulled off more history for Dade County public schools, finishing second in the Class 4A race.
The Barracudas, who came on strong in the second half of the season by winning a regional title last week, finished 27 points behind meet champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. A victory would have made them the first Dade public school champion since Coral Park in 1963.
Junior Kurt Convey finished a team-best seventh in 15:52.45.
Jackson freshman Daesha Rogers figured to make a big impact this season in both cross-country and track and field after transferring from Plantation American Heritage.
Rogers posted the best finish ever for a runner from Jackson by placing second in the Class 2A race. But her Broward County rival, Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest’s Julia Montgomery, won her second state title in a row. Rogers’ time of 18:29.34 wasn’t far behind Montgomery’s 18:22.81.
Also on the girls’ side, Ferguson finished a strong third in Class 4A behind champion Aquinas and Winter Park.