Day 2 of the Spanish River Invitational brought in the 3A and 4A schools to compete against one another with no clash more highly anticipated this season than FL #1 ranked Belen Jesuit versus FL #2 ranked Viera in the boys' team competition.
The two squads had established themselves as the clear-cut best two teams in the state thru the first 3 weeks of the season going undefeated and being dominant in their wins against other top-ranked programs in Florida but had yet to face each other.
On the two-loop course around a lake at South Regional Park in Boca Raton, the first loop had Belen Jesuit winning with Adam Magoulas and Joshua Ruiz double-teaming Viera's top runner Michael Toppi at the front, while Belen Jesuit also had a large pack of runners in between the #3 and #4 runners for Viera.
The second loop was a different story with Viera moving up as a squad. Toppi would at least split up Magoulas and Ruiz as a runner-up in the race with a near PR performance of 15:08.
Magoulas would win the race in a new course record and meet record performance of 14:57. His time destroyed the old course record of 15:27 set by another Belen Jesuit great in Elliot Clemente in 2011. It also matched the meet record on a different course at South County Park by Ryan Pickering, who went on to finish top 10 at Foot Locker Nationals in the same season.
After the sophomore rising star Ruiz posted another stellar race and PR time of 15:29 for third place to give Belen Jesuit the advantage at #1 and #2 runner spots, Viera's Cameron Raney (15:56) and Robbie Naberhaus (15:59) grabbing fourth and sixth place started the point swing back to Viera.
Spanish River senior Sam Jaramillo finished between Raney and Naberhaus running a school-record 5K time of 15:57 in fifth place for a special performance achieved in his home invitational meet.
Another sophomore for Belen Jesuit in Evan Torres stepped up in the #3 runner spot for ninth place in a PR time of 16:04, while only five seconds and three spots off Viera's #3 finisher Naberhaus.
The team race was won ultimately by Viera's #4-6 runners all moving up on the Belen Jesuit pack in the second half of the race and running PR's across the board in senior Joshua Ingalls in 15th place at 16:13, junior Aedan Rendek in 20th place at 16:20, and freshman Jack Girard in 22nd place at 16:32.
Belen Jesuit in the same runner positions of #4 thru #6 had junior Marco de La Hoz in 19th place at 16:20, junior Alec Torricella in 21st place at 16:27, and junior Matthew Calero in 25th place at 16:41. The point swing and time separation was narrow, but enough to give Viera a narrow 3 point victory at 42-45 over Belen Jesuit.
Belen Jesuit has a lot of youth in their lineup with only two seniors among their varsity runners and so much depth that is a blessing but also a course to determine who will be the seven runners for them to count on down the stretch. The future definitely looks promising with them with two fast sophomores in Ruiz and Torres having two more years of high school cross country to lead the squad.
Viera answered the bell and challenge after losing their #1 ranking temporarily to Belen Jesuit the week coming into Spanish River not due to any of their race performances since they have gone undefeated all season, but Belen Jesuit appearing to be the deeper squad on paper. Their plan with a senior core of Toppi, Raney, Naberhaus, and Ingalls is to not lose a single race this season and keep the top spot.
Both teams averaged under 16 minutes with their top 5 scorers as the 4A champions Viera averaged 15:55 and the 3A champions Belen Jesuit averaged 15:51. The meet actually separates and scores the meet for each classification, so both Viera and Belen Jesuit actually walked away from the meet hoisting first place team trophies on the podium.
The two teams will see each other down the road at the FSU Pre-State Invitational and possibly in the post-season at Nike Cross Southeast if both teams make the post-season trip to North Carolina.
Beyond the two powerhouse squads, the next best performing teams at Spanish River were last year's 4A state champions from Christopher Columbus then more 4A schools from South Florida in Spanish River, G. Holmes Braddock, and Boca Raton.
The girls' race for 3A/4A was all Our Lady of Lourdes Academy enjoying wins both as a team and individually with Olivia Fraga.
Fraga, a junior running her first season of cross country after running the sprints this past outdoor track season, timed her kick just right to nip Dillard sophomore Christiana Coleman at the finish line as they had an intense battle over the final quarter-mile.
Fraga posted a personal best time of 18:51 for the win, while Coleman had to settle for runner-up for a second year in a row at Spanish River in a nearly identical time (18:50 in 2020) with a solid 18:52 effort. Another not being able to compete in the state meet last year, Coleman is anxious to make it back this year after running her 18:24 PR in 8th grade at the 2019 FHSAA State Cross Country Finals.
South Fork junior Addison Boyer, winner at the Vero Beach Invitational two weekends ago, was also with Fraga and Coleman near the end of the race and broke 19 minutes for the first time in a third-place finish of 18:59.
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, ranked #6 right now overall in the entire state of Florida and considered as a state title contender in 3A, had 4 runners among the top 15 places with race winner Fraga, Johanna Diez (8th, 19:47), Olivia Rodriguez (11th, 20:06), and Sofi Martinez (13th, 20:13) to easily win the 3A team title at Spanish River and would have also won a hypothetical combined 3A/4A team scoring at 58 points ahead of G. Holmes Braddock with 97 points and Dillard with 133 points.
The team had a top 5 average of 20:01 at the Spanish River Invite.
G. Holmes Braddock girls were the 4A team champions in the results split from the 3A schools like Our Lady of Lourdes with a 20:45 team average and their 49 point tally putting them ahead of Viera led by Brooke Gerrits (6th, 19:40) with 75 points. Braddock had two girls among the top 15 finishers in the combined 3A/4A race with Annabella Cardona (7th, 19:43) and Kayla Feeney (15th, 20:27).
The Dillard girls (61 pts) with race runner-up Coleman finished second in the 3A only schools team standings behind Our Lady of Lourdes (36 pts) and just ahead of St. Thomas Aquinas (67 pts).