Belen Jesuit is the 2017 3A state champion team. With the regular season approaching, Coach Ruiz gives us the scouting report on this year's squad.
What takeaways did you learn last season that you are looking to apply to the 2018 season?
Main thing I learned in my 16th season as a head coach at Belen was that I needed to learn to be more patient with the team and I needed to be able to teach some of that patience as well.
For 2018 I have already taken measures to account for the necessary time for some of the runners, especially the younger ones, to adapt to our program. I also learned that we needed to be better at traveling. Since vey few schools up north have the desire to travel to South Florida we spend a lot of time on the road each weekend trying to compete with the rest of the state and if we don't handle the logistics carefully for that hustle we end up taxing the runners and our coaching staff towards the end of the season. This takes a gradual toll on training and eventually on their race performance.
What is the best way to describe your coaching philosophy when working with these high school athletes?
My philosophy training high school athletes has been evolving for quite some time. Every season I tend try as hard as I can to simplify workouts and keep the focus on the basics.
I try to get the kids to buy into the sport and totally immerse themselves in all that running is from their level all the way to the pro level. Our program is deeply rooted in tradition, given that I am only the second coach in nearly 50 years.
We do everything possible to evolve and try new things while maintaining some of the traditional culture established by prior Belen XC Teams. My philosophy also includes a sense of greater purpose as a coach than just making good endurance runners but more importantly developing unselfish productive young men beyond sport.
What has summer training been like?
We have had our fair share of good miles and some nagging injuries to contend with. We started our summer running in Central Florida then we spent some time training in Colorado to close out our off-season program. All in all the boys have had a productive training schedule and aside from some vacation they have all been progressing quite nicely.
Any impactful freshman or transfers to join the team this season?
Yeah we have 19 freshmen on the team so I excitedly say that the team is well-infused with youthful talent. This is the most I have ever had.
Which athlete(s) on your team do you think will be the biggest surprise and why?
I don't think I have any athletes that will surprise us simply because those that will be running well have been showing their progress all summer long. That being said, I do know that given the large team there will be some unexpected performances as the season moves along.
From your perspective, what would define success for your team this season? What do you think it will take for your team to achieve that?
Our definition of success is doing everything we can within our control to ensure that we are string contenders in November for a State Title. For us to get there we need to be very detailed oriented, humble and relentless with our hard workouts.
What are some of the meets the team is looking forward to this year?
Some of the big meets we are gearing up for are the Flrunners Invitational, FSU Invitational, and Spanish River Horse Park Invitational.