Vote below for who you think is most deserving in the title of Florida high school boys distance runner of the year for the 2021 track season. Poll closes at 9 PM ET on Sunday, July 11th.
Choices including Samuel Austin of Oviedo, Rheinhardt Harrison of Nease, Gabe Montague of Satellite, Austin Montini of Oak Hall School, Matthew Mulé of St. Andrew's, Javier Vento of Belen Jesuit, and Joe Wester of Satellite.
Samuel Austin (Oviedo)
Oviedo senior Samuel Austin led the state throughout and the nation almost entirely this past outdoor season at 800 meters with a personal best clocking of 1:50.00 at Bob Mosher Wildcat Open on April 3rd.
Austin ran 1:51 in three other races including a late rally victory in a competitive 4A state finals race, while posting his second 1:50 performance of his career two months later in a 1:50.48 fifth-place finish in a deep national class field at the Brooks PR Invitational this past weekend.
Austin also showed great range to drop down to showcase his speed with a 400 meter best of 47.71 in the Seminole Athletic Conference Champs as well as posting a 4:18 mile PR at the Dunbar Tigers Classic. He heads off to the University of Florida next part of a large and talented in-state class of distance recruits for the Gators.
Rheinhardt Harrison (Nease)
Every race that Rheinhardt Harrison ran this spring, all eyes were on him to see what he would do next. While he did not get the sub 4-minute mile that he was chasing with his best effort being a 4:06 full mile in windy conditions at the Set Goals Not Limits Distance Showcase, Harrison did break the Florida high school state record for 3200 meters with a 8:47 performance at the Bolles Last Chance Meet in early April.
The Nease junior also earlier in the season at Bolles rolled to 1:51.48 personal best in the 800-meter run, which held up as the third-fastest time in the state and top 25 in the nation. Harrison won all of his races this spring against in-state competition including a 4:08 1600 and 9:02 3200 double to win the FHSAA 4a titles in both.
It was learned after the state meet that Harrison was racing with a lower leg injury that forced him to cross-train heavily for the 3-week span of district, region, and state competition to put his state meet performances in greater context of impressiveness.
Gabe Montague (Satellite)
Satellite's Gabe Montague missed a good chunk of the midway segment of the 2021 outdoor season, but had a strong start and certainly made a quick recovery to put him in the discussion among the state's top distance performers. Before his injury, Montague seemed prime to a huge spring running a 1600 meter personal best of 4:10 and a 3200-meter season-best of 9:08.
After missing the last weekend of February, the entire month of March, and the first weekend of April from racing, Montague returned after a 6-week absence in time for his conference meet. After cruising thru the conference, district, and regional meet with his Satellite teammates, Montague was ready to push himself at the state meet in the 2A Finals.
In the 1600 meter race, Montague took it hard before eventually being caught on the final stretch by Matthew Mulé of St. Andrew's and had to settle for a runner-up 4:11 performance. Later in the 3200-meter run, Montague was not going to be caught again going out as a state champ with a 9:15 effort. In the post-season, Montague teammate up with fellow Satellite state champ runner Joe Wester to run a 1:53 personal best in the 800 on their home track two weeks after the state meet.
Austin Montini (Oak Hall School)
Oak Hall School senior Austin Montini had one of the more remarkable comeback stories of the 2021 outdoor season in Florida. The 1A state cross country champion in the fall was sat down from competing and even training for virtually half a year when discovered he discovered potential heart complications developing after being infected in the coronavirus after the cross country season.
Finally, getting a chance to race in time for the district meet, Montini progressively got stronger and faster each week before putting on a dazzling show at the FHSAA 1A State Finals. Montini first anchored the Oak Hall boys to a state title in the 4x800 meter relay then later individually won a pair of individual state track titles and first since his 8th grade 3200-meter victory with great kicks to take the 1600 meter run in 4:21 and 800 meter run in 1:55.
Two weeks later, Montini stepped back on the track to test his constantly improving fitness in the post-season at Golden South Series #2 in which he clocked a new personal best time of 4:15 for the full mile distance in a spirited race and win against Adam Magoulas of Belen Jesuit before he heads off to Yale University.
Matthew Mulé (St. Andrew's)
Another top distance runner who almost saw his entire senior season derailed due to illness was Matthew Mulé of St. Andrew's, who had mononucleosis knock him out for a large chunk of meets during the invitational season. Mulé had run 4:15 for 1600 meters and 1:54 for 800 meters in February before missing the next five weeks of competition and almost all of March due to mono.
After running a 4:49 1600 and 2:05 800 in his first race back from the illness, Mulé continued to drop his times weekly entering the championship season. By the region meet which was one month after his return to action, the University of Florida commit was running then 4:13 for 1600 meters and 1:55 for 800 meters.
At the state meet competing against the top runners of Satellite among others in a strong 2A field for the 1600 meter run, Mulé had the best close among Gabe Montage and Joe Wester in the final 100 meters to claim his first state title with a 4:11.31 personal best time and Florida's third-fastest performance on the season. He later doubled back to finish as a state runner-up behind Wester in the 800.
The following week getting the opportunity to race 800 meters fresh at Golden South Series #1, Mulé won with a new personal best time of 1:53.86.
Javier Vento (Belen Jesuit)
Belen Jesuit senior Javier Vento was one of only a few distance runners in state that enjoyed an undefeated season against in-state competition en route to claiming the FHSAA 3A state titles this spring in the 1600 and 3200 meter run this spring.
Vento broke 4:10 in the mile in one of his signature races and wins of the season in arguably the best collection of Florida distance runners at the Dunbar Tigers Classic with a 56 second last lap close and 4:09 victory. He also showcased his wheels during the season at 800 meters with a 1:53 season best in the event out of only two times racing the event this season.
Twice, Vento ventured under 9:10 for 3200 meters and nearly broke 9 minutes at the state meet while running a more strategic sit and kick race behind freshmen Patrick Koon of Leon before making the final move for a 9:02 personal best win. The time was third fastest in Florida this season behind only Nease's Rheinhardt Harrison and Anderson Ball.
Vento finished 5th at the adidas Boost Games road mile in 4:15 against national class field and just behind Harrison in 4th to finish his high school career in the post-season before he heads off to the University of Florida.
Joe Wester (Satellite)
Joe Wester was unbeatable this season at 800 meters never losing an entire race at the distance topping out with a personal best and school-record time of 1:51.23 in the post-season. The Satellite senior earned his first state individual title winning the 2A state title in the event.
The University of Florida signee was also a standout this season at the 1600 meters and mile distance running under 4:15 numerous times including a 4:11 full mile runner-up finish behind future college teammate Javier Vento at the Dunbar Tigers Classic.
In his one lone crack at 3200 meters this season, Wester threw down a 9:16 3200 meter running with teammate Gabe Montague. Speaking of team, Wester also anchored a Florida top 10 all-time 4x800 meter relay squad at Satellite who posted a 7:44 state-leading time early in the season in the event.
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