Winter Springs senior Caroline Wells will lead the season off as the top-ranked high school girls cross country runner overall in the state of Florida.
Throughout the 2021 cross country season, we will be maintaining all-classification subjective cross country rankings for the state of Florida. Our initial release this week will be pre-season top 25 rankings for individuals and teams for the state of Florida.
Our rankings are done by one individual in site editor Brandon Miles, so all rankings critiques can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. These rankings take in numerous factors including performances from the last cross country season as well as improvements made during the track season.
FACA rankings for each classification should be hopefully released at some point next week.
Friday 8/13 - Top 25 Girls Team Rankings
Saturday 8/14 - Top 25 Boys Team Rankings
1. Caroline Wells (Winter Springs) - The defending 3A state champion Wells is coming off a track season in which she set the 3200-meter state record in 10:08 and 5K state record in 16:16. She will be tough to beat and could find her way qualifying and competing for All-American top 15 finish at Foot Locker Nationals by the season's end. She added two more state titles to her resumé in the spring at 1600 and 3200 meters.
2. Caroline Lehman (Cambridge Christian) - The defending 1A state champion Lehman is another runner coming off a historic track season winning the adidas Indoor Nationals title in the 5K with a 16:53 state record during the winter as well as breaking a 42-year-old state record in the girls two-mile at 10:14. She should blow her 18:07 cross country best at 5K out of the water early in the season.
3. Tatum David (IMG Academy) - While missing the last half of the outdoor season due to injury, David was phenomenal in all her races prior to her first year of IMG coming from Illinois including a scorching 16:41 5K best in cross country last fall out in Arizona at the Desert Twilight. She also split 4:44 indoors on a DMR 1600 meter anchor leg. Hopefully, she'll have some opportunities to race against the likes of Wells and the Cambridge Christian duo at some regular-season invitationals before FHSAA championship series.
4. Mary Ellen Eudaly (Cambridge Christian) - This will be Eudaly's first cross country season racing for Cambridge Christian after transferring from 4A school Plant to the 1A school in between the cross country and track seasons. She made huge gains during track to elevate her to this ranking as the 1A 1600 meter state champ this spring ran 4:44, which is second fastest all-time in state history and sixth fastest when converting mile times to 1600.
5. Haley Thornton (Palm Harbor University) - While only having a modest 5K best of 19:10 and a 19th place finisher in the 4A state race last November, it is hard to deny the jump that Thornton made during the track season to not expect her to be one of Florida's best cross country runners and a top contender to win 4A this fall after winning 1600 meter title in a speedy 4:50 PR as well as doubling as a state runner-up in 3200 at 10:42.
6. Carly McNatt (IMG Academy) - Just two years ago, Carly McNatt was an 8th place finisher at Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego and ran a 17:06 5K PR at the regional. She did not run the times or achieve the same level of success last fall with 17:57 season-best, but has certainly become more of a middle-distance geared athlete achieving PR's in both the mile (4:56) and 800 (2:15) this past track season that could signal McNatt returning closer to her 2019 form in XC.
7. Amber Schulz (Timber Creek) - Last year's 4A state cross country champ Schulz missed virtually the entire 2021 outdoor season due to injury, so question marks remain on her level fitness, and especially might be tough to expect her to start the season out running at top form after the long absence. However, do not be surprised to the defending champ to close strong at the season's end as she gains confidence and races herself closer to her 17:44 5K best form. A 10:43 performer at 3200 meters in 2019, Schulz only raced four times last fall managing an injury as well.
8. Penelope Sosa (Miami Coral Park) - After closing her 2020 cross country season on a high note going from 3rd in her regional to meet to finishing 4th in the 4A state race with a 18:47 5K PR, Sosa did it again with a strong close to track. Sosa dropped 14 seconds in her 3200 PR to win the 4A girls 3200 state outdoor title over Haley Thornton with a 10:41 best. She will be looked upon as a legitimate 4A state title contender in cross country as well with Thornton, defending champ Schulz, and others.
9. Eliana Black (Cambridge Christian) - Still a middle schooler entering her 8th-grade year, Black will be potentially part of one of the nation's best top 3 lineups across the country joined with Lehman and Eudaly. The defending FLYRA state champ in cross country as well as 3K and 1500 meters outdoors, Black also holds her own racing against high schoolers at 5K distance as evident with an 18:16 PR and state runner-up finish in 1A last November. Black also broke 5 minutes for 1600 meters and 11 minutes for 3200 meters in state record times for a 7th grader this spring.
10. Brooke Reif (Wharton) - Reif is another athlete projected from her great track season to take a significant leap in cross country as her state track meet double was something impressive breaking 5 minutes for 1600 meters in 4:57 and 11 minutes for 3200 meters in 10:49 with a pair of third-place showings in 4A. She ran 19:13 for 5K last fall and finished back in 31st place at the state cross country meet, so her ranking is based on banking that her track times breakout will lead into XC.
11. Alanie Rivera (Harmony) - Rivera really hit her stride down the homestretch of championship season last fall with a 18:07 5K PR at her district meet then grabbing a third-place finish in the 3A state finals. She moves up with her school this year to a very crowded 4A classification (5 of top 11 ranked girls from 4A) and focused on the 800 this spring as an All-State finisher and 2:15 performer.
12. Jillian Candelino (Bolles) - The 2020 FHSAA 2A state runner-up in cross country and likely #1 runner for one of the state's top returning squads at Bolles, Candelino ran consistently in the 18 minute range last fall as a sophomore with an 18:19 season best. She dipped just under 5:10 for 1600 meters in the spring and finished among top 6 for All-State honors in the event.
13. Lily Henne (Montverde Academy) - Henne has been a force in cross country dating all the way back to the 2016 season as a 7th grader and finally arrives for her senior year in 2021 coming off winning her first state title this past spring in the 1600 meter run with a 5:01 PR. She'd like to take down her 5K PR this fall which dates back to her 2018 freshmen season at 18:02. A state runner-up in the 3200 this past spring as well, Henne's best finish in state cross country finals is 4th place while finishing 5th in Tallahassee last year.
14. Jais Ward (IMG Academy) - The third runner from IMG ranked among the top 15 runners in the state is the youngest of their talented trio in rising sophomore Ward. She has a speedy 18:03 5K from the speedtrack known as Desert Twilight in Arizona, but also ran 18:26 on the North Port home course and was a 7th place finisher in the flrunners.com Invite Race of Champions.
15. Annabella Cardona (G. Holmes Braddock) - A bright young distance star down in South Florida, Cardona was a 15th place finisher in the 4A state race last fall but was simply just getting started. She broke 11 minutes twice for 3200 meters in the spring including a state meet in which she was in contention and pushing the leaders during the race before ultimately running 10:51 for fifth place. Banking on a sophomore year leap for her this fall as one of the top freshmen distance performers from this past year.
16. Grace Marston (Lakewood Ranch) - There is a lot of great runners centered around Bradenton area schools including Lakewood Ranch senior Marston. An 18:53 5K best performer in cross country and 12th place state meet finisher in 4A one season ago, Marston was rock solid during the track season achieving PR's of 10:53 for 3200 meters, 4:58 for 1600 meters, and 2:16 for 800 meters as an All-State performer in two events.
17. Amy Meng (Fort Myers) - Some runners simply perform better when it comes to cross country and Fort Myers senior Meng might just be one of those types. Meng's track times were only modest this spring at 11:24 for 3200 meters and 5:32 for the mile, but hard to neglect her 2020 cross country season in which she finished 5th in the 3A girls state race with an 18:33 5K best and won 5 of her 7 races prior to the state meet. She is the sixth-fastest returnee overall from last year's state finals. Meng is the second-highest returnee from last year's 3A state cross country race behind champion Caroline Wells.
18. Ashley Fitzgerald (American Heritage) - Another talented young distance star with Cardona from South Florida is American Heritage's Fitzgerald, who experienced initial success in both cross country and track as a freshman. Fitzgerald was a ninth-place finisher in the 3A girls state race with a 18:56 5K best, while finished 3rd and 4th respectively in the state outdoor 1600 and 3200-meter races. She went 5:09 in the 1600 and 11:03 in the 3200 for her season bests in other meets. It would be no surprise to see Fitzgerald as a state runner-up in 3A behind Caroline Wells this fall.
19. Megan Wells (Newsome) - Wells seems to be one of those steady performers when it comes to cross country. She might not ever win a major race, but she will always find herself finishing solidly in the top 5 in most big invites and champ races. Her best performance from last fall came in an 18:48 5K PR run for fifth place in the 4A state finals (9th fastest state meet returnee overall) and was the Hillsborough County runner-up in 2020. She ran PR's of 11:16 in the 3200 and 5:20 in the 1600 during the track season.
20. Aurora Melzer (Lakewood Ranch) - Lakewood Ranch has a pair of girls who really came on strong at the end of track season to position themselves well for this fall between #16 ranked Marston and #20 ranked Melzer. The rising senior Melzer ran personal bests of 11:03 for 3200 meters and 5:14 for 1600 meters after coming off a cross country season which she finished 9th in the 4A girls state race and ended the fall with an 18:49 5K PR at the RunningLane Champs in Alabama.
21. Deanna Bottino (Choctawhatchee) - A soccer star that disappears on us when the track season rolls around in the spring, cannot forget about Choctaw's Bottino, who was one of the top runners out of the Florida Panhandle last fall finishing with an 8th place state meet finish of 18:51 in 3A. Tough to track her development and improved fitness since that last race in November, but with another strong teammate in Chloe Fernander (11th in 2020 3A state finals) to push her and train with should be expected to finish with a strong senior season after running XC all 4 years of high school.
22. Lauren Jones (Oak Hall) - The Cambridge Christian girls could easily roll a 1-2-3 sweep in 1A, so might be tough for Jones of Oak Hall to improve upon her state finals finish from a year ago. She was a state runner-up in 2019 and third-place finish in 2018. She can certainly run faster though and dip even further under 19 minutes after running 18:57 on the Apalachee Regional Park course last November. Jones dropped her 1600 PR down to 5:07 in the spring, while finishing 4th in both the 1600 and 3200 (11:22 season-best) at the outdoor state finals.
23. Ella Mickler (Bolles) - Bolles with their depth might have an interchangeable pecking order as far as their top runner and top 3 with the likes of Candelino, Mickler, and Maddie Popp. Would not be surprised to find all 3 ranked among the top 25 in the state overall at some point this season. Mickler was a third-place finisher in 2A state finals last year with a sub 19-minute effort in Tallahassee. She also clocked an 18:22 5K PR at RunningLane to closer her season and her best track performance was an 11:19 run in the 3200 at the state meet.
24. Ava Povich (Evangelical Christian) - The 5th runner from 1A to crack inside the pre-season top 25 rankings is Evangelical Christian sophomore Povich. After a 7th place finish in the 1A state cross country race and running a best of 19:18 last fall, Povich was a consistently strong performer in the 3200 this spring running in the 11:10-11:20's range in the majority of her races. The rising junior dropped an 11:08 PR to finish third in 1A girls 3200 state race.
25. Emma Hencock (St. Brendan) - Bolles girls will be dominant upfront in 2A, but Hencock of St. Brendan is one runner that can break them up and did it last year as a 6th place finisher in the state finals finishing just ahead of Maddie Popp of Bolles. Hencock is the fourth runner from South Florida to make it just inside the top 25 pre-season rankings cutoff. Over the track season as a sophomore, Hencock ran a 11:15 PR for 3200 meters as an All-State performer in 2A as well as posted a 1600 meter best of 5:16.
Just Missed The Cut: Maddie Popp (Bolles), Kate Drummond (Buchholz), Jolynn Rodriguez (Winter Springs), Jada Williams (Flagler Palm Coast), Avery Fronrath (King's Academy), Reilly Barber (St. Augustine), Laci Watford (University Christian), Olivia Niewald (Spruce Creek)