Eliana Black Leads Deep Elite Girls Field Set For Pre-State



The FSU Pre-State Invitational will have virtually all of the top runners and teams in the state of Florida -- with a few exceptions -- while bringing in some quality and select out-of-state competitors as well.

Take a look below at top 25 fastest entrants entered in the elite girls. 


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Replay of last year's elite girls race at FSU Pre-State Invitational

Top 25 Season Best 5K Times from Elite Girls Field at FSU Pre-State Invite

1. Eliana Black (Cambridge Christian) 17:15

2. Ashley Fitzgerald (American Heritage) 18:09

3. Madeleine Gear (Cambridge Christian) 18:10

4. Ava Povich (Evangelical Christian) 18:16

5. Ella Beckett (Keswick Christian) 18:23

6. Malinda Underwood (Rockledge) 18:26

7. Addison Boyer (South Fork) 18:26

8. Layla Haynes (IMG Academy) 18:11

9. Lindy White (Ponte Vedra) 18:23

10. Susan Gracie Koeppel (Maclay School) 18:25

11. Kate Drummond (Buchholz) 18:26

12. Emma Hencock (St. Brendan) 18:27

13. Brooke Hooper (Pine Crest) 18:28

14. Simone Monaco (Winter Springs) 18:31

15. Emma O'Day (Boca Raton) 18:34

16. Olivia Fraga (Our Lady of Lourdes) 18:37

17. Ava Wyant (The Master's Academy) 18:37

18. Charleen Elizondo (North Bay Haven) 18:37

19. Tara Watkins (Naples) 18:38

20. Emily Knopfle (Olympia) 18:40

21. Avery Fronrath (The King's Academy) 18:42

22. Lily Moore (Leon) 18:44

23. Katelyn O'Brien (Boca Raton) 18:45

24. Annabella Cardona (G. Holmes Braddock) 18:45

25. Grace Finneran (St. Thomas Aquinas) 18:45

Eliana Black from Cambridge Christian, a ninth-grader, headlines the girls elite field at the FSU Pre-State Invitational. She's the current top-ranked runner in the state of Florida and undefeated so far this fall with a streak of race performances well into the 17 minute range, including her latest being a 17:15 personal best run at the North Port Invitational.

With the only other sub 18-minute performer and No. 2 ranked runner in the state, defending 2A state champion Jillian Candelino, racing out of state this weekend at the Manhattan Invitational, Black might have another race where she is running well ahead of the competition, despite how great of a field that will be on hand at Apalachee Regional Park on Saturday morning for the elite race. 

In her last race at ARP, Ashley Fitzgerald of American Heritage turned in a stellar performance with a state runner-up finish in last year's 3A state race. She ran a time of 18:13 a year ago and may be looking to post her first sub-18 minute performance this weekend after establishing herself as the top runner in South Florida several weeks ago with her 18:09 personal best victory at the Spanish River Invitational.

Plenty of great talent is making their way up from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to North Florida, including the likes of South Fork's Addison Boyer, St. Brendan's Emma Hencock, Pine Crest's Brooke Hopper, Boca Raton's Emma O'Day and Katelyn O'Brien, Our Lady of Lourdes' Olivia Fraga, The King's Academy's Avery Fronrath, Braddock's Annabella Cardona and St. Thomas Aquinas' Grace Finneran.

It could be a great showcase of how strong South Florida distance running has become as of late, with many of those same names dominating the top 10 and top 15 position spots on Saturday.

Cambridge Christian, which will be the favorites in the team competition, could be bolstered potentially by a 1-2 finish if Madeleine Gear could join teammate Eliana Black as the next finisher across the line.

The pair achieved that feat in a very competitive North Port Invitational in mid September, with Gear clocking an 18:10 personal best for second place.  

Caroline Wells, last year's FSU Pre-State Invitational champion, left a big hole when she graduated this past spring from Winter Springs in the 3A classification. Now the question remains of who will take over that spot to become the next state champion; this weekend will be a great opportunity to see who the front runner truly is for this season.

Between last year's state runner-up in Ashley Fitzgerald, to go along with Ponte Vedra's Lindy White, Rockledge's Malinda Underwood, South Fork's Addison Boyer and Winter Springs' Simone Monaco, the top five ranked runners in Class 3A will all be racing head to head for the first time together this season at FSU Pre-State Invitational.

Fitzgerald has raced against Boyer several times this season, while Underwood and Monaco have split head to head encounters together. White and Underwood were separated by 3 seconds to start the season at Cecil Field. 

The star power in Class 1A right now is as equal -- if not better -- than any other classification just going based off the top five or more ranked runners in the classification and that should be on display led by the Cambridge duo of Black and Gear.

But following them is some exceptional talent, including Ava Povich of Evangelical Christian, Ava Wyant of The Master's Academy, Ella Beckett of Keswick Christian, Sydney Miller of Oak Hall, and Susan Gracie Koeppel of Maclay School. 

One athlete that her season best time is incredibly misleading of where she is projected to finish in the field at the FSU Pre-State Invitational is currently the top ranked runner in all of Class 4A in Olympia sophomore Emily Knopfle, who has competed primarily in smaller or mid major invitational this season and owns a season best of 18:40.

One of Florida's top freshman performers one year ago, Knopfle finished 12th in last year's FSU Pre-State Invitational before finishing third in her second race at ARP in the 2021 FHSAA Class 4A state race. 

The twosome from South Florida, Emma O'Day of Boca Raton and Annabella Cardona of Braddock, are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in Class 4A heading into Saturday's race and they match up with Knopfle as some of her top challengers. Kate Drummond and Buchholz is also in contention.