For the second time ever in the historically great Belen Jesuit program, they will be sending a team to the Team Nationals to be held in Portland, Oregon next weekend after qualifying at the Southeast Regional qualifier with a runner-up team finish in Cary, North Carolina.
This year's squad set an FHSAA state record with their sixth straight consecutive state title including a lineup with many key contributors who will be back in 2023 as well. On Saturday, the Belen Jesuit boys with their score of 111 points put them only 6 points off the winning squad from Tennessee in Farragut High School with 105 points, while only four points ahead of another Tennessee squad in McCallie School with 115 points in third place.
It was incredible tight between the top 3 teams in the race and could have gone 3 different ways if the race was run 3 different times. Leading the Belen Jesuit boys were the junior Ruiz twins Joshua running a 5K personal best of 15:07 for third place individually and his brother Joseph running a stellar race as the team's #2 runner in 14th place with a time of 15:27.
Their standout 8th grader Marcelo Mantecon broke his own 8th grade state record for the 5K in cross country dropping his personal best down to 15:43 finishing 30th overall in the race with a 15:43 performance. Rounding out the scoring five for the Belen Jesuit boys were sophomore Joseph Socarras in 59th place with a time of 15:58 and senior Matthew Calero (73rd, 16:05).
Calero's performance and finish as the team's fifth runner was particular impressive considering he was not in the top 7 racing at the regional or state meet after a disappointing race individually in the district meet.
The senior must have showed something to coach Frankie Ruiz in workouts over the last several weeks to give him a second chance to run back in the varsity lineup again. The decision certainly paid off as they possibly could be on the outside looking in of an at-large top 2 team finish without the senior Calero's race and stepping up as the fifth runner.
The last time that Belen Jesuit qualified as a team for the Team Nationals in Oregon was in 2011 with a squad that ultimately finished 20th out of 2022 in that year's national race. This year's group is hoping for a much better finish against the best programs in the country next weekend in Portland while representing the Southeast Regiona and the state of Florida.