Koon 14:43 In Huntsville, Belen Jesuit Top 5 All Under 16!

At the Southern Showcase in Huntsville, Alabama, a small group of over 80 runners from several high schools in Florida traveled to race on one of the fastest 5K cross country courses in the country as well as the home of the RunningLane National Championships in the post-season.

It was a stellar day for Florida including the race winner in the championship boys race in Leon junior Patrick Koon, who ran the second fastest 5K time recorded in Florida high school history at 14:43 behind only Viera's Michael Toppi on the same course running 14:41 at the 2022 RunningLane Championships last December.

The defending 3A state champion Koon was one of five runners to break 15 minutes in the race as he ultimately was able to break away from a duo from Tennessee in Miles Ramer (2nd, 14:49) of  Ravenwood and Luke Mussard (3rd, 14:54) of Dobyns-Bennett. Not only is Koon shooting for another state title this fall in Florida, but also have greater aspirations nationally in hopefully qualifying once again for the now Champs National Cross Country Championships (formerly Eastbay, Footlocker, Kinney) in San Diego. His victory at Southern Showcase certainly will raise his stock and confidence to become an All-American this fall. 

As fast as his race was on Saturday, Koon still didn't best his 5K PR which sits at 14:40 on the track from an All-American fifth place finish at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet in Philadelphia this past summer.  The course is known as a track speedway PR fest on grass at John Hunt Running Park, so interesting to see how closely Koon's cross country best time on Saturday matched up with his track best.

The FL #1 and MileSplit 50 #13 nationally ranked Belen Jesuit boys, got an opportunity to race for the first time on the John Hunt Running Park course in Huntsville, and produced finishing 3rd overall in the team standings with the #4 ranked squad in the country in Jesuit of Louisiana winning overall. Belen Jesuit saw their entire top 5 breaking 16 minutes on the course led by Joshua Ruiz in 20th place at 15:28 and followed closely by his twin brother Joseph Ruiz with a huge PR of 15:32 to crack inside the top 25 in 25th place. 

Their #3 runner was an 8th grader in last year's FLYRA middle school state cross country champion Marcelo Mantecon, who ran a jaw dropping 5K best of 15:48, which is the fastest time run by an 8th grader in Florida high school history besting the old mark of Trinity Prep's Kayamo Galloway at 16:02 from the 2015 FHSAA State Cross Country Finals. 

Rounding out their scoring five was 1:53 half miler in sophomore Joseph Socarras (52nd, 15:53) and junior Evan Torres (57th, 15:58), while their #6 and #7 runners were just north of 16 minutes flat in Lucas Alejandro Garcia (74th, 16:08), and Justin Ruiz (76th, 16:09).

A squad this year vying to qualifying for the Team Nationals in Oregon out of the Southeast Regional over Thanksgiving weekend in North Carolina, Belen Jesuit certainly showed they are capable of being one of the top 2 teams in the region. After this weekend's results, Belen Jesuit is the second fastest squad in the region with a 15:44 team average behind only Farragut of Tennessee at 15:41, who they were just 4 points behind at the Southern Showcase.

Also breaking 16 minutes in the championship boys race from Florida was Satellite's Andrew Mahorner (32nd, 15:40) and Pensacola Christian's Drew Birx (55th, 15:55). After running 9:13 for 3200 meters spring, Mahorner had his best race of the season on Saturday as had two of the top runners in his new 3A classification ahead of him in last year's champion Koon and last year's runner-up Josh Ruiz. 

The Florida girls really showed out in the team scoring with 4 of the top 11 teams in the championship race coming from the state led by a potential 1A state meet podium squad in the Pensacola Christian Academy girls in third place with 232 points finishing ahead of another top ranked 1A team in Maclay School in sixth place with 262 points. Pensacola Christian and Maclay School could be the two teams battling for the state runner-up spot after Cambridge Christian in November. 

The Pensacola Christian girls were led as always by the sisters RaeAnne Tutton (17th, 18:39), and Jaimee Tutton (18th, 18:39) finishing among the top 20 individuals in the championship girls race crossing the line together in flashy new 5K PR's. Rounding out their scoring five was Reagan Smith (48th, 19:24), Sofia Peterlevitz (79th, 19:57), and Jessica Chappell (113th, 20:22). 

Just over a minute spread separated the top 5 runners of the Maclay School girls led by ninth grader Lillian Koeppel in 19:13 for 39th place. Her older sister Susan Gracie Koeppel is typically the team's top runner, but was the #3 runner on the day in 60th place at 19:40. If Maclay School can get both Koeppel sisters running well on the same day, no reason they cannot close the gap and challenge Pensacola Christian in their next encoutner this season. No seniors in their varsity lineup and had two freshmen in the younger Koeppel and Caroline Couch (45th, 19:20) as their top two finishers in Huntsville. 

Niceville (7th, 267 pts) and Leon (11th, 375 pts) also acquitted themselves well finishing in the top half of a national caliber field including teams from many states. Leon had the senior duo of Lillee Tang (34th, 19:06) and Lily Moore (35th, 19:08) leading their squad running just over 19 minutes, while Niceville had 5 girls break 20 minutes and was paced by Trinity Holland as their top finisher in 41st place at 19:15