1A boys race preview for the 2023 FHSAA State XC Championships on Friday, November 17th at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.
Team Favorites: Indian Rocks Christian
The Indian Rocks Christian boys are firmly in the driver seat to win a third consecutive 1A state cross country team title as the overwhelming favorites and one of the state's best top 5 lineups in the state.
IRC boasts an entire top 5 nearly all under 16 minutes with their season best 5K times between individual title contender Blake Young at 15:18, Aidan Griffin at 15:22, Jonah Berry at 15:42, Ethan Esposito at 15:57, and Nicholas Zamora at 16:07.
In what seems to have become an annual tradition over last few seasons, the Indian Rocks Christian boys treated their regional meet as a glorified tempo run holding back in the race and allowing Cambridge Christian to win the team title. At their district meet though the week prior, Indian Rocks Christian let it rip to perfect score with 15 points and put 5 runners including 4 under 16 minutes ahead of the same Cambridge Christian squad to show their might and full potential.
Indian Rocks Christian has the potential to put their top 5 all on the podium as top 15 All-State finishers with Young one of the favorites to win the state title individually.
The only thing standing in the way for a 3-peat is themselves if any of their top 5 runners are not healthy, sick, or struggle finishing the race as over a full minute separates their sixth runner from their fifth runner. That situation came up once this season at the North Port Invitational when missing two of their top 5 runners and they faltered back in the field as a result.
Team Contenders: Cambridge Christian, Oak Hall School, South Florida HEAT
Cambridge Christian can certainly celebrate their regional team title last week, but are well aware this week another team win would be miraculous as this week will not see Indian Rocks Christian treating the race as a workout.
Cambridge has a strong varsity lineup looking to finish on the state meet podium for the first time ever in the program's history for the boys including 6 runners who have broken 17 minutes on the season led by 3 sub 16 performers in Christian Escribano, Mark Meister, and Leonardo Borjon. Borjon won the regional title last week in 16:25 at Holloway Park, while Escribano is a returning All-State cross country individual from 2022.
Cambridge Christian was the top finishing 1A school earlier this season at the FSU Pre-State Invitational in the elite race when Indian Rocks Christian was absent with a 16th place finish and 16:43 team average.
The Oak Hall boys were champions last week at the 1A Region 2 meet nearly putting 5 runners among the top 15 places and finished 18 points ahead of a formidable and well packed Holy Trinity squad. Oak Hall has a tight pack as well under a minute with Peter Peloso, Quinten Dragstedt, Grant Curtis, and Andrew Eisner all under 16:40 with their season bests while Benjamin Gallolgly at 17:13 rounds out their scoring five.
Another team to watch is the 4A Region 4 champions from South Florida HEAT, who put 5 runners under 17 minutes in Boca Raton to claim their regional title as the home schooled squad includes Joseph Dorn, Hunter Morgan, Dylan Webb, Augusto Caceres, and Chipper Edwards among their scoring five.
A pack of potential podium teams that could grab the runner-up spot after Indian Rocks Christian includes 1A Region 1 champions Pensacola Christian, 1A Region 1 runners-up Providence School, 1A Region 4 runners-up Westminster Academy, and 1A Region 2 runners-up Holy Trinity.
1A Region 3 might be the deepest region represented as Seffner Christian and Out of Door Academy went down to a sixth runner tiebreaker to determine third place after Cambridge Christian in first and Indian Rocks Christian on second. Both are capable of top 5 state meet finishes.
Individual Favorites: Henry Stark (Palmer Trinity), Blake Young (Indian Rocks Christian)
The anticipated head to head between Henry Stark of Palmer Trinity and Blake Young of Indian Rocks Christian. Week to week this season, one would throw down a fast time for a see saw battle of making a strong impression of who is the top runner in the 1A classification. Friday morning will settle all of that when they clash.
Stark has the leading season best time from his 15:05 runner-up finish at the Spanish River Invitational behind 2A state title favorite David Serra of Ransom Everglades, while Young on the same weekend in September won the always competitive and super fast North Port Invitational race in a 5K best time of 15:18.
Both seemed to just run hard enough last week at their regional meets to save up for their state meet efforts with Stark cruising to a 15:41 victory at 1A Region 4 on the same South County Regional Park course as his 15:05 earlier to stay just ahead of Westminster's Jonathan Pena.
Meanwhile, Young was content to run as a pack with his Indian Rocks Christian teammates and finish 21st with a time of 17:33 at the 1A Region 2 meet. Young though ripped another fast times of 15:19 in his district meet one week prior.
Only 5 seconds separated in last year's 1A state race when Young finished 5th in a time of 16:03 and Stark was sixth in a time of 16:08 as two of the top returnees from the 2022 state meet. Ironically, Young's teammate Nicholas Zamora (4th, 16:01) is the top returnee from the race but currently is running as his own team's fifth runner.
Individual Contenders: Jonathan Pena (Westminster Academy), Aidan Griffin (Indian Rocks Christian), Jonah Berry (Indian Rocks Christian), Will Neeld (Circle Christian), Christian Escribano (Cambridge Christian), Ethan Esposito (Indian Rocks Christian), Leonardo Borjon (Cambridge Christian)
The Indian Rocks Christian boys are so good that they have potential to be well represented amongst the top 15 and even top 10 with their entire top 5 capable of All-State honors including Aidan Griffin, Jonah Berry, Ethan Esposito and Nicholas Zamaro. ,
A few other runners to watch in the field include the 1A Region 4 runner-up Jonathan Pena, 1A Region 2 champion Will Neeld of Circle Christian, and 1A Region 3 champion Leonardo Borjon of Cambridge Christian.
Pena was only two seconds off top individual favorite Stark at their regional meet with a 15:43 personal best run, while he broke 16 minutes and finished well in several big races this season including at Spanish River, FSU Pre-State, and the flrunners.com invitationals. While he was just behind Stark at the regional meet, Pena was also just behind Young by a few seconds at the flrunners.com Invite too.
Neeld's lone sub 16 race of the season came at New World in a 15:53 PR, but secured an impressive 16:12 win at the 1A Region 2 race in Lake City and should be racing for a top 5 state meet finish.