Workout Wednesday: Viera Cross Country Team

Watch the video above from our Workout Wednesday visit with Florida's top-ranked boys cross country team in Viera and their #15 ranked girls cross country team.  An early morning practice starting at 6:15 AM before their school day saw their squad do a total of five 1000 meter repeats and followed up with hill repeats.

The 1000 meter repeats were broken down with the first three repeats at critical velocity pace with a 60-second jog recovery while picking up the intensity for the final two repeats at 3K race pace with roughly 90 seconds to two minutes recovery in between. They capped off their morning practice finding a nearby hill off a road embankment to a short but intense climb for a handful of repeats.

The workout was done in preparation for the highly anticipated Cecil Field Summer Classic on Friday in Jacksonville with the Viera boys at full strength facing off against some of the state's top-ranked squads with them including #2 Bolles, #4 Satellite, #6 Creekside, #8 Bartram Trail, and #9 Oak Hall School. The Viera girls will be in a deep field including a trio of 4A squads ranked higher than them in Timber Creek, Mandarin, HB Plant, and Winter Park.

Last year's 4A state runner-up boys team in cross country, Viera returned virtually their entire varsity lineup from 2020 including one of the best 1-2 duos in Michael Toppi and Robbie Naberhaus. Toppi, ranked #3 in the entire state of Florida individually, looked especially fit in the workout running around 3 minutes flat for his first 3 reps then went under 2:50 for his last two intervals. Toppi and Naberhaus were held out of their team's first race in the preseason at Wickham Park, but will open at Cecil Field after a great summer of training including a trip out west to train at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The rest of their squad includes three others who went under 17 minutes last fall in Cameron Raney, Aedan Rendek, and Joshua Ingalls. The team also has an immediate impactful freshman in Jack Girard, who ran as the #3 finisher for the short-handed squad at Wickham Park.

The girls' team suffered more graduation losses and currently has two runners who have stepped up considerably from a year ago in Isabella Narvaez and Brooke Gerrits to lead the squad including high finishes at the Wickham Park Jamboree in mid-August.

Both ran in the 20-minute range in the mud and sloppy conditions at Wickham Park including a 5K PR for Gerrits impressively in those conditions. There was a two-minute gap from their #2 to #3 runners, which will need to be addressed and improved for them to try and come close to last year's success. The 2020 squad had a top 5 team average of 19:33, but only returns two runners from that deep group and Gerrits was not even running inside the top 7 last fall.  

The team also has a new head coach in Brooke's mother in Samantha Gerrits, who still is running fast 5K times into her early 40's that could likely find herself running on her team's top 7. Coach Gerrits inherits an experienced and talented boys squad with high expectations to compete for a state title in year one at the helm while looking to bring along the girls squad to also be competitive with season improvements to be needed from the back end of their scoring five.

So she is tasked with two drastically different situations in maintaining and tweaking a well-oiled machine in the boys' squad, while needing to reload and develop a girls' squad with major work to be done.