Virtual meet projections and meet preview for the 2023 and 41st annual Spanish River Invitational to be held September 22nd and 23rd at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, Florida.
MileSplit.com will be on-site with race video, interview and photo coverage.
Spanish River Invite 1A/2A Friday Races
Virtual Meet Projections:
1A/2A Boys Preview
Many of South Florida's best are actually found in the smaller schools and that will be display on Friday for the first day of the Spanish River Invitational with the 1A/2A schools varsity races.
David Serra of Ransom Everglades highlights the boys race as the current top ranked runner and state title favorite in the 2A classification. The Wake Forest commit opened his season two weeks ago at the Astronaut Invitational with a 15:21 5K personal best performance. Serra finished second in last year's Spanish River Invitational with a time of 15:46 behind since graduated Colton Lawson of The King's Academy. Serra went onto win state titles this past spring in the 1600 and 3200 running personal bests of 4:09 and 9:04 respectively.
His top challenger on Friday at South County Regional Park will be Palmer Trinity senior Henry Stark, who similar to Serra has positioned himself as a state title contender but for the 1A classification. Stark has won several races this season including a 15:52 season best performance at Tropical Park to win the King of the Hill Invitational, which ranks third fastest all-time in the course history. Only 12 seconds off the time run by Belen Jesuit grad Adam Magoulas at Tropical Park, who owns the course and meet record at the Spanish River Invitational at 14:57. Perhaps Stark is due for a huge time drop this weekend as well.
Two other highly ranked runners for their classification in the race to watch include Jonathan Pena of Westminster Academy and Marc Gonzalez of Mater Lakes Academy. Pena has won a a trio of invitational races including a 16:05 5K season best with his only loss as a runner-up to Stark at King of the Hill, while Gonzalez has a pair of first place finishes to his credit this season and a season best of 16:10 for 5K.
The team title is very much up for grabs and should be closely contested between Westminster Academy, Holy Trinity Academy, South Florida HEAT, and Mater Lakes Academy. Westminster led by Pena and Tanner Pritchard finished as runners-up behind only last year's 4A state runners-up Christopher Columbus and 12 points ahead of Mater Lakes Academy.
Westminster is currently ranked #5 in the 1A classification based on times alone, while #7 Holy Trinity and #8 South Florida HEAT are also ranked among the top 10 for Florida's smallest schools classification. Mater Lakes Academy is ranked #5 in the 2A classification, while the David Serra-led Ransom Everglades squad sits in the #10 spot for the classification.
1A/2A Girls Preview
The big question in the 1A/2A girls race is if we will see the season debut of Brooke Hooper, who has yet to race this season despite being considered one of the top returning runners in the state fresh off an outdoor season that saw her post lifetime bests of 4:56 for 1600 meters and 10:35 for 3200 meters while winning her first indivdiual state title in the 1600. Hooper won the 1A/2A race as a sophomore in 2021 with a time of 19:03, while last year finished as a runner-up to Emma Hencock of St. Brendan despite running 33 seconds faster at 18:29.
If Hooper is still not racing then look for the race to come down to The King's Academy senior Avery Fronrath and Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart freshman Daniela Hernandez. Even if Hooper was in the race, these two could seriously challenge her based on their past and most recent race performances.
Fronrath finished third in last year's Spanish River Invitational 1A/2A varsity race behind Hencock and Hooper with a time of 18:42 before ultimately earning another All-State honor in the 2A state race with a 10th place finish. During the track season, Fronrath broke 11 minutes for 3200 meters twice including a 10:58 best at the FSU Relays. She was All-State in both the 1600 and 3200 meter run outdoors.
Her cross country season so far has included a season best run of 18:38 from a runner-up finish to American Heritage's Ashley Fitzgerald at the Dr. Joaquin Garcia Invitational which was held on the same course she will be competing at this weekend in South County Regional Park. In that same race, Fronrath finished ahead of the likes of Hernandez and South Fork's Addison Boyer.
The ninth grader Hernandez will be looking to close the 11 second gap that existed between herself and Fronrath in her last race at South County Regional Park as well as lead her Carrollton squad to the team title on Friday.
A fifth place finisher as an eighth grader last year at the FLYRA Middle School State Champions, Hernandez has only gotten faster in all 3 of her high school races so far to now find herself running sub 19 minutes for 5K.
Her team in Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart will be heavily favored to win on Friday as well as they boast currently a 20:15 average for their top 5 runners in comparison to the next closest schools to challenge in The King's Academy at 20:50 and South Florida HEAT at 21:26. Their team was victorious at the Dr. Joaquin Garcia Invitational against many larger 3A and 4A schools in attendance.
Ransom Everglades and Holy Trinity should also be in the mix to compete for a runner-up trophy with The King's Academy and South Florida HEAT.
Carrollton has a pretty strong 1-2 between Hernandez and junior teammate Grace Aldrich with a season best of 19:18 from her last race at South County Regional Park. Currently based on times alone, Carrollton ranks fourth in the 2A classification followed by The King's Academy with a #6 ranking.
Meanwhile, South Florida HEAT at #7 and Holy Trinity at #8 rank who will be both competing at Spanish River find themselves amongst the top 10 teams in the 1A classification based on times alone.
Other girls individuals to watch who project to compete for top 5 places in Friday's varsity race include Kaycie Aquilino of St. Brendan, Sabrina Martinez of Riviera Prep, Claire Chanon of Westminster Academy, and Eloise Miles of Palmer Trinity. All of those aforementioned girls have already broken 20 minutes for 5K in the young cross country season.
Martinez is coming off a runner-up finish at the King of the Hill Invitational, while Aquilino has been a runner-up twice in invitational races at Larry & Penny Thompson Park in Miami this season. Chanon ran 19:18 at South County Regional Park earlier this season for the fastest season best among that chase pack group.
3A/4A Saturday Races Virtual Meet Projections:
3A/4A Boys Preview
Do not expect to see the top 5 nationally ranked Belen Jesuit boys racing at full strength this weekend with their top lineup of runners as likely saving them for two big races ahead in the FSU Pre-State Invitational next weekend and Great American Cross Country Festival in early October.
They are coming off a resounding team victory at the Southern Showcase in Alabama where they set a state record with their 15:11 team average for their top 5 runners as the fastest in Florida high school history as well as their front runner Joshua Ruiz running the fastest recorded 5K high school cross country time ever for the state at 14:38 in an individual win.
What will be intriguing this weekend is seeing the depth of their squad and how many of their runners they actually sit out. Do they sit out the top 3, top 5, or entire top 7 and can they still win the meet without the services of their top scorers.
If you take out their top 7 in the virtual meet for example, they still would beat last year's 4A state runners-up Christopher Columbus 42 to 70 points as Belen Jesuit has an entire next 7 of runners (#8-14) who have already broken 17 minutes for 5K this season remarkably.
These names in Charles Carreno (16:11 5K season best), Daniel Lurigados (16:20), Adrian Almeida (16:29), Matthias Murrie (16:31), Joey Diaz-Quintero (16:37), Octavio Blandon (16:43), and Phillipe Riobe (16:44) normally get buried in the depth chart for their Belen Jesuit squad, but could have an opportunity this weekend to star themselves in a team victory against a still very strong field of varsity squads assembled for the Spanish River Invitational's 3A/4A schools division.
The Christopher Columbus boys though who have real goals of this season of becoming the 4A state champions after returning a solid core of their lineup from last year's state runner-up squad are certainly not going to lay down and let the "B" squad of Belen Jesuit beat them.
Columbus finished third (130 pts) at the Florida Horse Park Invitational over Labor Day weekend behind Belen Jesuit (19 pts) and Sunlake (2nd, 103 pts), while 30 points ahead of Braddock (4th, 160 pts) posting a team average of 16:31 in Ocala. Their squad was better packed with a 40 second spread and looked stronger at the King of the Hill Invitational on September 13th at Tropical Park winning by a margin of 76 points ahead of 2A squad Westminster Academy.
Columbus already has six of their top seven varsity runners clocking times under 17 minutes for 5K this season led by Alejandro Romagosa with a 15:56 season best from his top 10 showing at the Florida Horse Park Invite. Mario Sueiras (16:23), Mateo Sotelo (16:40), Daniel M. Garcia (16:42), and Anthony Scarcello (16:51) currently round out their top 5 scorers who will pose a formidable challenge to any lineup that Belen Jesuit puts out on the starting line on Saturday.
However, Columbus also might need to turn their focus away from Belen Jesuit and instead look at other top teams in the field including Vero Beach and Braddock, who both boast top 5 team averages on the season at 16:39.
Vero Beach ran well at the Astronaut Invitational two weekends ago with a runner-up finish behind only Hagerty and have 4 runners under 17 minutes this season in Sage Morrow (16:12), Kenan Willard (16:15), Evan Dunham (16:29), and Parker Banzhaf (16:38). They will just need their fifth runner Andrew Youssef (17:41) to close the gap a bit on their front four for them to be able compete against the top tier programs in the state by season's end.
Meanwhile, Braddock has a super young squad that traveled up to Katie Caples Invitational in Jacksonville last weekend and finished a very respectable fourth place behind only 2A state champions Bolles (1st, 81 pts), 4A state champions Creekside (3rd, 146 pts), and emerging 4A title contender Buchholz (2nd, 148 pts). Braddock has only 3 seniors in their top 7 and the rest are underclassmen. They already have six under 17 minutes with Mauricio Escalona (16:29), Michael Gongora (16:29), Andres Canas (16:35), Luccas Torres (16:52), Jhonny Felix (16:53), and Andre Santos (16:56).
The individual favorite for the 3A/4A boys race is very murky depending on how deep Belen Jesuit goes in holding out its varsity runners. Romagosa is the most certain top entrant in the boys field and he is not afraid to the take the lead in any race no matter the quality of the field. He finished third (16:06) in last year's 4A race results from the Spanish River Invite and ran his 5K best of 15:47 at the FSU Pre-State Invite.
Vero Beach's Sage Morrow and Kenan Willard will be looking to press closer to the 16 minutes flat range after both running in the 16:10's at Astronaut Invitational.
Augustin Muyl Pineda, a senior at Doral Academy Charter, is an under the radar runner to watch in the race as he ran a 16:20 to finish 17th at the Florda Horse Park Invitational and started his season with a 16:34 performance at South County Regional Park.
Alejandro de Bastos from Pembroke Pines Charter dropped a 4:20 best in the 1600 meter run last spring, so he has the wheels to kick if in contention late in the race and is coming off a fifth place 16:46 finish in the afternoon heat at the King of the Hill Invitational.
Many of these South Florida runners have been running in weekday meets in the afternoon, so expect many to see time drops racing in cooler Saturday morning temperatures at the Spanish River Invitational for the 3A/4A varsity races.
3A/4A Girls Preview
The girls varsity race for Saturday is a lot less unknown or variables to predict the outcome. It will be super competitive especially for the team race as the Dillard girls, last year's state runners-up in 3A will look to withstand strong challengers in Our Lady of Lourdes and last year's 4A state runners-up Braddock in their first major invitational race of the season.
While primarily racing so far just in their local BCAA weekday meets, the Dillard girls still come in on paper as the favored team with six of their runners having run 20:30 or faster including Miley Gill, Peyton Williams, Raquel Edwards, Christiana Coleman, Shynah Collins, and Abigail Richards.
The Spanish River Invitational could be the meet that the Dillard girls really show the rest of the 3A classification that they should be the ones considered as the favorites to win the state cross country team title this fall.
Meanwhile, the Our Lady of Lourdes girls have already defeated head to head the defending 3A state champions Osceola in their season opener at the Dunbar Tiger Jamboree and also held their own in the competitive Cecil Field Summer Classic with a fifth place finish. Their squad most recently won the King of the Hill Invitational led by the race champion in Alessandra Perez and currently have 5 runners who have broken 21 minutes on the season including Perez, Olivia Rodriguez, Daniella Fraga, Cristina Sanchez, and Lucia Castillo-Rios.
Similar to last year's squad that ended up on the podium in the state meet for the 4A classification, the Braddock girls in 2023 have a formidable top 4 and just looking for someone to fill in admirably for their fifth spot as Annabella Cardona, Kayla Feeney, Jada Garcia, and Jasmine Trotz have already broken 21 minutes on the season while Martina Buitrago with a 21:18 season best is working her way down to join them as the fifth runner.
Spanish River Invitational will be their first local race of the season after opening with a runner-up finish at the Florida Horse Park Invitational in Ocala and last weekend went to Jacksonville to finish sixth in the Katie Caples Invitational.
South Fork with a stellar duo in Addison Boyer and Emerson Brinn as well as the host school Spanish River should also be very competitive and aim for top 5 team finishes in the 3A/4A combined race on Saturday morning.
American Heritage senior and University of Florida commit Ashley Fitzgerald will be favored to win the girls individual title on Saturday as last year's 3A state runner-up has picked up where she left off last fall. She could threaten to break 18 minutes on the South County Regional Park course as two weeks ago on the same 5K layout went 18:04 to win the Dr. Joaquin Garcia Bulldog Invite to easily dust off the field.
Fitzgerald has broken 18 minutes twice last year and happened to occur on the same course at Appalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee with a runner-up showing of 17:53 at the FSU Pre-State Invite followed by another second place showing and silver medal in the FHSAA 2A state cross country race in 17:56.
Only three runners have broken 18 minutes on this specific course at South County Regional Park and Fitzgerald certainly could join them as the fourth.
Closest competition for her will likely come from South Fork senior Addison Boyer and G. Holmes Braddock senior Annabella Cardona. With an 18:44 season best, Boyer was 40 seconds back from Fitzgerald in their last race though to show the gap that currently exists between Fitzgerald and the rest of the field.
Fitzgerald won last year's 3A/4A girls race in a time of 18:09, while Boyer was second in 18:26 finishing ahead of the eventual 4A state champion Emma O'Day of Boca Raton.
Cardona ran 19:01 in the Spanish River Invitational and is coming off a ninth place finish (19:27) at the Katie Caples Invitational last weekend, but has a season best of 19:09 from a third place showing at the Florida Horse Park Invite.
One runner to watch though that has not really raced hard yet this season is St. Thomas Aquinas junior Grace Finneran. Finneran ran 18:45 at last year's Spanish River Invitational and nearly broke 5 minutes for 1600 meters during the track season at 5:01.
The Our Lady of Lourdes freshman Alessandra Perez might be ready to join the sub 19 minute club this weekend after winning her last two races in the King of the Hill Invite and FNU Invitational on slower courses. She might be ready to drop her 19:24 PR and top 15 finish from the Cecil Field Summer Classic last month.