There was a notable absence on the medal stand at last year’s state cross-country championships.
Belen Jesuit, Miami-Dade County’s premier program in the sport, finished third in the Class 3A standings after eight consecutive seasons bringing home either the state championship or runner-up trophy.
According to longtime coach Frankie Ruiz, the Wolverines are motivated not to let that happen again for some time.
“It’s definitely driven a lot of the energy and focus in our kids especially since the summer started,” Ruiz said. “We were disappointed to be the ones that broke the streak.”
Belen, winner of eight state championships overall, had its string of four consecutive state titles snapped last season. The Wolverines enter the season with an experienced group that Ruiz said is one of the most physically fit he has had in 14 years coaching the team.
Belen has eight seniors on the team led by its top runner Jaime Lopez, who along with sophomore Joshua Collins finished in the top 20 at state individually. Each runner appears to be on track for potential top 5-10 finishes this season if all goes well. Collins is considered one of the top runners in the state in his class.
Seniors Bruno Zayas, Nicolas Roca and Jorge Gomez are back as well as sophomore Chris Garcia.
Belen Jesuit is ranked No. 1 in the preseason in Class 3A by FLRunners.com just slightly ahead of St. Johns Creekside.
“The one positive from last season is that the pressure is off,” Ruiz said. “There’s a different kind of leadership that has so far resulted in a great summer of training.”
The Wolverines took their annual summer trip together — a tradition that began more than 25 years ago according to Ruiz. This year, the Wolverines went to Colorado and trained in the hills and mountains of Colorado Springs and Boulder, and visited some of the local college cross-country programs. The team paid for its trip through fundraising from activities at the school’s summer camp.
“We spent nine days up there and did some altitude training,” Ruiz said. “We’ve been doing that for years, going to places like Oregon and North Carolina. More than anything it was team bonding.”
Although Belen enters the season ranked as the county’s top team, Coral Reef and Columbus appear to be front-runners on the boys’ side in Class 4A, with Ferguson giving chase.
Seniors Carlin and Cameron Berryhill return for Coral Reef, which finished second at state and joined Ferguson in 2007 as the only county public schools since 1965 to finish in the top two at state. They and senior Derwin Moultrie, another state qualifier, give the Barracudas a strong top end of the lineup.
Columbus, a four-time state champion, hasn’t won it since 2010. The Explorers have one of their strongest squads in recent years, led by seniors Humberto Freire, Danny Areces, Carlos Aguerri and junior Deshay Fernandes, who transferred from Coral Gables.
On the girls’ side, Ransom Everglades figures to have the top talent in the county, led by senior Lauren Archer and junior Beatriz Ruan.
Lourdes returns junior Sabrina Quijano, and the Bobcats should vie for Class 4A supremacy with Ferguson and Coral Reef.
Gulliver (Class 2A) and Westminster Christian (Class 1A) also should be contenders this season.
▪ Tropical Park has undergone renovations to its track, which will be ready to host competitions after Sept. 10.
Sept. 3: Youth Fair Invitational at Larry and Penny Thompson Park
Sept. 11: King of the Hill Invitational at Tropical Park
Sept. 19: Spanish River Invitational in Boca Raton
Sept. 24: Ferguson Falcons Invitational at Larry and Penny Thompson Park
Sept. 25-26: FLRunners.com Invitational in Titusville
Oct. 2: 305 Classic at Larry and Penny Thompson Park
Oct. 3: Pre-State FSU Invitational in Tallahassee
Oct. 8: Junior Orange Bowl Invitational at Larry and Penny Thompson Park
Oct. 9-10: Disney Classic in Kissimmee
Oct. 10: Westminster Academy Invitational
Oct. 16: GMAC championship at Larry and Penny Thompson Park
Oct. 19-24: Districts
Oct. 29-31: Regionals
Nov. 7: State meet at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee
Nov. 28: Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte, N.C.; Nike Nationals Southeast Regional in Cary, N.C.
Dec. 5: Nike Cross Nationals in Portland
Dec. 12: Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Boys – Class 4A: Longwood Lyman; 3A: Tallahassee Chiles; 2A: Winter Park Trinity Prep; 1A: Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal.
Girls – Class 4A: Winter Park; 3A: St. Johns Creekside; 2A: Jacksonville Bolles; 1A: Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal.
TOP RETURNING BOYS
Carlos Aguerri, Columbus, Sr.
Danny Areces, Columbus, Sr.
Cameron Berryhill, Coral Reef, Sr.
Carlin Berryhill, Coral Reef, Sr.
Joshua Collins, Belen, So.
Gabriel Correa, Ransom Everglades, Sr.
Deshay Fernandes, Columbus, Jr.
Humberto Freire, Columbus, Sr.
Jorge Gomez, Belen, Sr.
Derwin Moultrie, Coral Reef, Sr.
Jaime Lopez, Belen, Sr.
Guilherme Pereira, Divine Savior, Sr.
Austin Redondo, Coral Reef, So.
Nicolas Roca, Belen, Sr.
Leonardo Rodriguez, Ferguson, Sr.
Bruno Zayas, Belen, Sr.
TOP RETURNING GIRLS
Kaylee Alfaro, Ferguson, Jr.
Raljah Andresjohn, Mater Academy, 8th
Lauren Archer, Ransom Everglades, Sr.
Maria Fernandez, Doral Academy
Nicole Kolisch, Carrollton, Sr.
Melissa Melchor, Ferguson, Sr.
Jinah Mickens-Malik, Mater Academy, 7th
Hailey Mira, Westminster Christian, Fr.
Meylin Muniz, Doral, Jr.
Rachael Osman, Coral Reef, Jr.
Sabrina Quijano, Lourdes, Jr.
Beatriz Ruan, Ransom Everglades, Jr.
Natasha Strump, Westminster Christian, Jr.
Natalie Varela, Gulliver, 8th
Briana Vergara, Coral Reef, So.
Andrea Zumpano, Westminster Christian, Sr.
PRESEASON TOP TEAMS
Boys: 1. Belen Jesuit; 2. Columbus; 3. Coral Reef; 4. Ferguson; 5. Ransom Everglades.
Girls: 1. Ransom Everglades; 2. Lourdes; 3. Ferguson; 4. Westminster Christian; 5. Coral Reef.
For complete team-by-team outlooks, go to www.miamiherald.com/high-schools and click on this story.
BOYS’ TEAM-BY-TEAM OUTLOOKS
1. COLUMBUS (Coach Eric Pino, 2nd year at COL, 3rd overall). Last year: Fourth at state. Top runners: Humberto Freire, Sr.; Danny Areces, Sr.; Deshay Fernandes, Jr.; Alec Cuevas, Jr.; Carlos Aguerri, Sr.; Alex Gonzalez, Sr.
2. CORAL REEF (Coach Mike Becker). Last year: State runner-up. Top runners: Carlin Berryhill, Sr.; Cameron Berryhill, Sr.; Derwin Moultrie, Sr.; Austin Redondo, So.
3. FERGUSON (Coach Ryan Raposo, 10th year, 68-1). Last year: 3-0. Top runners: Daniel Verdecia, Sr.; Guillermo Rojas, So.; Leonardo Rodriguez, Sr.; Adrian Crespi, Sr.; Javier Arriaga, Jr.; Justin Melo, Jr.
4. CORAL GABLES (Coach Scott Nelson). Last year: 9-3. Top runners: Alex Elortegui, Sr.; Cavan Wilson, So.; Abraham Elmir, Sr.
5. CORAL PARK (Coach Mark Formosa, 8th year). Last year: 3-2. Top runners: Manuel Lacayo, Sr.; Fabian Puig, Sr.; Gabriel Torres, Sr.; Michael Veloso, Jr.; Carmine Tei, Sr.; Leonardo Ortiz, Sr.
6. DR. KROP (Coach Caron Schiffman). Last year: 10-7. Top runners: Spencer Tate, Sr.; Malik Watson, Jr.
7. SOUTH MIAMI (Coach Joyce Campbell). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Rolando Garcia III, Sr.
1. BELEN JESUIT (Coach Frankie Ruiz, 15th year, 96-1). Last year: Third at state. Top runners: Jaime Lopez, Sr.; Joshua Collins, So.; Bruno Zayas, Sr.; Nicolas Roca, Sr.; Jorge Gomez, Sr.; Chris Garcia, So.
2. TERRA (Coach Bill Healy, 2nd year at Terra, 19th overall). Last year: 9-5. Top runners: Gabriel Caceras, Sr.; Brannon Brisbane, So.; Nick Greco, So.; Alberto Quinteros, Jr.
3. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Al Parker, 10th year at MA, 11th overall). Last year: 6-3. Top runners: Wilmer Garcia, Jr.; John Quintana, Jr.; Jeffrey Cuza, So.; David Sanchez, Sr.
4. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach William Drew, 6th year). Last year: 21-9. Top runners: Richard Brito, Sr.; Stephen Baldelomar, Fr.; Aramis Fernandez, Jr.
1. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Don Kappelman). Last year: District champions. Top runners: Gabriel Correa, Sr.; Jackson Mihm, Sr.; Liam Balkan, Sr.; Andres Arango, Sr.; Antoine Ober, Sr.; Wesley Cusack, Fr.
2. LA SALLE (Coach Chris Crotty). Top runners: Brando Mena, Jr.; Joseph Castellvi, So.; Juan Aguirre, Jr.; Agustin Cardona, So.; Andres Cabrera, Jr.
1. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Chris Hayes, 22nd year). Last year: 16-2. Top runners: Alex Cohen, Jr.; Jacob Strouse, Sr.; Ryan Finvarb, So.; Evan Mendelson, Fr.; Ryan Mendelson, 7th; Mack Tracy, 6th.
2. PALMER TRINITY (Coach Johann Odermatt, 2nd year at PT, 11th overall). Last year: Third in district. Top runners: Duncan Stoner, So.; Henry Fernandez, Jr.; Nicolas Rey, Fr.; Nicolas Balarezo, Jr.; Mathew Sculin, So.; Reilly May, Fr.
3. DIVINE SAVIOR (Coach John Althoff, 4th year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Guilherme Pereira, Sr.; Guillermo Mata, So.; Guido Morales, So.; Felipe Garces, Fr.; Joshua Ramirez, Fr.
4. SCHECK HILLEL (Coach Karyn Bishof, 3rd year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Ariel Gelrud, Sr.; Uri Epelbaum, Sr.
5. RIVIERA PREP (Coach Lauren and Marcos Redondo, 3rd year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Levi Singer, Fr.; Xavier Pugh, Fr.; Justin Ivier, Jr.; Noah Sperber, Fr.
6. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Jose Garcia, 6th year, 9-6). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Christian Martinez, Fr.
GIRLS’ TEAM-BY-TEAM OUTLOOKS
1. LOURDES (Coach Rebecca Michalak, 10th year). Last year: Third at state. Top runners: Sabrinaa Quijano, Jr.; Andrea Gongora, Sr.; Jeannie Estevez, Fr.; Lauren Garcia, Sr.; Calyope Ortega, Jr.; Nicole Lopez, Jr.
2. FERGUSON (Coach Ryan Raposo, 8th year, 75-3). Last year: 13-0 (Ninth at state). Top runners: Kaylee Alfaro, Jr.; Melissa Melchor, Sr.; Jazmyn Martinez, Jr.; Nicolle Garcia, Jr.; Gabriela Crespi, Jr.; Jasmine Alvarez, Jr.
3. CORAL REEF (Coach Maya Scott). Last year: 12th at state. Top runners: Rachael Osman, Jr.; Briana Vergara, So.
4. CORAL GABLES (Coach Scott Nelson). Last year: 10-4. Top runners: Alexis Clay, Sr.; Kady Boylan, Sr.; Eleonor Bauwens, Sr.; Gabrielle Saliamonas, Sr.
5. CORAL PARK (Coach Michel Fotso, 11th year). Last year: 3-2. Top runners: Terry Alvarez, So.; Maria Vega, Sr.; Priscilla Talavera, Jr.; Claudia Gutierrez, Sr.; Victoria Condis, Jr.; Katherine Condis, Fr.
6. BRADDOCK (Coach Carlos Cano, 12th year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Emily Mendoza, Sr.; Jessica Bango, Sr.; Ismara Garcia, Sr.; Lauren Locke, So.; Briana Vidal, So.; Maria Fonseca, Sr.
7. SOUTH MIAMI (Coach Joyce Campbell). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Franchesca Gonzalez, Sr.
1. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Al Parker, 10th year at MA, 11th overall). Last year: 9-0. Top runners: Raljah Andresjohn, 8th; Junah Mickens-Malik, 7th; Emily Garcia, Sr.; Venus Garcia, Sr.; Ashley Paredes, So.
2. TERRA (Coach Kim Kelly, 2nd year). Last year: 8-6. Top runners: Megan Moussa, Alexi Prieto, Sr.; Gabriella Gonzalez, So.
3. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach Ana Drew, 4th year). Last year: 19-7. Top runners: Alyssa Deno, Sr.; Sophia Gomez, Jr.
1. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Doc Crabtree, 31st year at RE, 34th overall, 194-9). Last year: Third at state. Top runners: Lauren Archer, Sr.; Beatriz Ruan, Jr.; Kat Smith, Sr.; Erica Scott, Sr.; Grace Waibel, Fr.; Anne Gutierrez, Jr.
2. GULLIVER (Coach Mike Ward). Top runners: Natalie Varela, 8th
3. CARROLLTON (Coach Kevin Davis). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Nicole Kolisch, Sr.; Sofia Miguez, Sr.; Marivi Madiedo, Sr.
4. ST. BRENDAN (Coach Carlos Maymi, 4th year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Sofia Fernandez, Sr.; Alejandra Moros, So.; Alexa Dussaq, Jr.; Lauren Laverina, Sr.; Gabriela Gutierrez, Jr.; Katerina Alvarez, Sr.
5. LA SALLE (Coach Chris Crotty). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Marianna Gonzalez, So.; Amanda Ruiz, So.; Teresa Gutierrez; Paulina Nunez; Angela Caldeira.
1. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Jose Garcia, 6th year, 12-1). Last year: Fifth at state. Top runners: Natasha Strump, Jr.; Andrea Zumpano, Sr.; Megan Brais, 8th; Hailey Mira, Fr.; Claire Kennedy, 7th; Kyra Wells, 8th.
2. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Chris Hayes, 22nd year). Last year: 14-3. Top runners: Isabella Allen, Fr.; Kitty Simmonds, 7th; Klara Meyer, 8th; Lea Ankonina, So.; Nicole Sherwood, Jr.; Mary Elizabeth Allen, Jr.
3. PALMER TRINITY (Coach Johann Odermatt, 2nd year at PT, 11th overall). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Gabriella Cepeda, Jr.; Julia Irvin, 8th; Cassidy Lewis, Fr.; Paola Gutierrez, Jr.; Madison Haggard, 8th; Bianca Lang, Fr.
4. RIVIERA PREP (Coach Lauren and Marcos Redondo, 3rd year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Nicole Katzarkov, Sr.
5. SCHECK HILLEL (Coach Karyn Bishof, 3rd year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Mandi Cohen, Sr.; Ali Wolf, Jr.; Maya Lalo, Jr.
6. DIVINE SAVIOR (Coach John Althoff, 4th year). Last year: N/A. Top runners: Elena Mueller, Sr.; Soyoun Park, Jr.; Katie Kaufman, 7th.