This article is a piece of the large meet program document.
There have been some truly legendary battles the last few years in this race. And every year we think, okay… we won’t see anything like that for a while... until the next year comes and then we do! Not only that but a lot of top runners tend to lay low for the early season meets and then have their “opening day” at flrunners. In fact, we’ve seen some greats make their first big burst on to the scene at this meet in the past. Who will it be this year?
Andres Arroyo, widely regarded as the state’s top distance runner, is essentially the only no-show from the who’s who of the top boys in Florida. He heads to Great American instead.
The two favorites going in are probably Carlos Miranda of Palmetto Ridge and Avery Lopez of Belen Jesuit. Miranda hasn’t really shown himself yet this season, but put up a 15:17 at Pre-State last season and had a 15:30 road race win in August. Lopez is the new leader for the Belen Jesuit dynasty and has a couple of wins under his belt already this season including UF and Fleet Feet. He is also coming off of a stellar track season.
The one person who has beaten Lopez this season will be there to challenge him again: sophomore Kurt Convey of Coral Reef. He took Lopez out at Greentree and won at Spanish River in 16:01 on Monday. But a host of studs from up north may break up the South Florida party with Thomas Howell and Nick Morken of Niceville looking to mix it up, along with Tim Bulger, Charles Shackleford and Trey LaNasa of Ft. Walton Beach. Then you’ve got the one-two bunch of Tyler Bennett and Ace Brown of Ft. Myers and it’s anyone’s game! Bennett is the current state leader with a 15:27 win last week at North Port.
Others to look at for… Garrett Westlake of PK Yonge who ran a 15:39 at flrunners last year and had an amazing diving second place finish at Alligator Lake last week. What heart! Georgian JC Cornett of Woodstock could be up there, he ran 16:07 a couple of weeks ago and went 9:38 for 3200 in track. Buddy Gates of Naples could be there, returning from a 15:40 showing at this meet last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Daniel Fernandez (Columbus), Fabian Tomas and Michael Magoulas (Belen Jesuit), Kenneth Castro and Nick Diaz (Sunset), and freshman Brandon Marquez (Timber Creek) getting up and challenging for the top ten.
Team-wise you can go at this a few ways. Strictly speaking Ft. Myers is the top-seeded team going in and they have been having a fantastic early season; however, their score is buoyed by some quick North Port Invitational times. Going by last year’s returners, it is actually Ft. Walton Beach that looks the deepest coming back.
However, let’s be real… Belen Jesuit is the favorite heading into this thing hands down. They are back-to-back returning team champions at this meet, having won it three of the last four years. They are nationally ranked. And they won the UF Mountain Dew Invitational (the biggest race thus far in 2012) hands down 31-96 over Columbus—who will also be a contender in this one. Those should be your top four. For fifth place, it’s kind of a toss-up… Estero has been looking good, Niceville has strength up front if they show some more depth, Trinity Prep could always surprise, and Miami Sunset is kind of the up and coming wildcard. Should be fun!