Belen Jesuit Wins NXR Southeast Two Days After State Meet

Belen Jesuit boys earlier this season after a win in Cary, North Carolina at Great American

The Belen Jesuit boys pulled one of the more impressive Florida high school cross country performances ever in winning the Nike Cross Southeast Regional on Sunday morning in Cary, North Carolina by a decisive 137 point margin only two days after racing and winning the FHSAA 3A state cross country title on Friday morning in Tallahassee, Florida.

Their win might be one of the largest margins of victories ever in the history of NXR Southeast as the top 5 nationally ranked squad averaged 15:25 as a squad on the WakeMed Soccer Complex 5K course.

Joshua Ruiz led the Belen Jesuit boys with a 15th place individual finish of 15:09, which was a remarkable bounce back from him after collapsing in the final stretch of his state meet finish and struggling to get across the line and finishing 8th in 15:51. Ruiz ran 14:59 on the same course earlier this season with fresher legs at Great American.

 His brothers Joseph (20th, 15:15) and Justin (41st, 15:31) were the next two Belen boys to come across the line, while typical #2 runner and freshman Marcelo Mantecon had an off race in 48th place with a time of 15:38. Mantecon might have been drained from pushing Patrick Koon to the very end as the 3A state runner-up on Friday with a time of 15:09 and ran 14:48 earlier on the same course used for NXR Southeast at Great American. 

Rounding out the team scoring for Belen Jesuit competing under the alias club name of Miami Havana was Evan Torres as the team's fifth under 16 minutes with a time of 15:57 for 95th place. 

Despite being dealt an unfair situation with the state meet and Nike regional on the same weekend, the Belen Jesuit boys handled it as best as could to show up and compete hard at both events walking away as champions as both events. Their resounding state meet victory on Friday was their FHSAA record 7th straight and 15th overall in the program's history. 

Now, Belen Jesuit boys will get two weeks to recover from their two back to back 5K races to get ready to show themselves as one of the nation's best at the Nike Cross Nationals in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday, December 2nd. 

Belen was not the only team or athletes from Florida who doubled up with only Saturday as their day of rest in between racing at the state meet on Friday and Nike Southeast on Sunday.

The 4A state state runners-up Buchholz (competing as Dreamville XC) and the 2A state champions Bolles (competing as Duval) both acquitted themselves racing on short rest against some of the best programs across the entire Southeast with Buchholz finishing 9th with 304 points and Bolles finishing 12th with 364 points in the 29 team championship boys field.

Buchholz boys were led by the same top 3 as have keyed their team success this season but in a different order this time with #3 runner Gino Palazollo as the team's top runner on this day in 56th place with a time of 15:40 while teammates Evan Fleming in 68th place at 15:44 and the 4A state champion Riley Smith finishing with a time of 15:48 for 78th place. Smith certainly had to be fatigued after his all out effort on Friday winning his first state title with a great finishing kick to pull away from defending champion Matt Ryan and Jonathan Leon. 

The Bolles boys were led by seniors Christopher Joost (60th, 15:41) and Miles Rivera (63rd, 15:42). Joost was coming off a state runner-up finish on Friday in the 2A race pushing David Serra to the line with a time of 15:21, while Rivera had an amazing race on Sunday to finish his high school career with a 5K PR after just running a 16:29 PR on Friday to finish in the top 15 for All-State. 

Graham Myers of Fleming Island competed solo as an individual and had one of the top Florida boys performance of the day finishing 32nd in the championship boys field with a 15:26 effort. Myers had just finished third in the 3A state race on Friday with a season best 5K time of 15:23. 

Two Florida girls squads competed in the championship race at NXR Southeast in IMG Academy (competing as IMG Elite) and the 2A state champions from Bishop Kenny (competing as Florida's finest).

The IMG Academy girls have not raced in a while since they are not part of the FHSAA state championship series, but faired well despite the race rust earning a 12th place finish in North Carolina with 348 points and a team average of 19:10. Last year's 1A state champion Eliana Black led IMG with a 41st place time of 18:19, while her teammate Brenna Jorde was close behind her in 43rd place at 18:20.

IMG Academy was also boosted by the return of one of their top distance runners in Huntley Buckingham, who had missed all of their prior meets this season due to injury. She eased back into racing again as their team's #4 runner in 152nd place at 19:41.

The Bishop Kenny girls appeared to be missing some of their varsity runners from their lineup on Sunday as possible some had conflicts or the double was going to be too much after racing and winning the 2A state team title on Friday over their Jacksonville rival Bolles.  Tessa Massa was the team's top finisher at NXR Southeast with a time of 18:49 for 82nd place and Stephanie Grden joined her under 19 minutes in 96th place with an 18:58 effort. 

Taylor Lawhorn, a freshman and the team's normal #7 runner, was their third finisher with a PR of 19:20 in 127th place. Bishop Kenny ended up racing without their #2 runner Emily Wheldon, #4 runner Davis Johnson, #5 Alexis Wilson, and #6 runner Alexis Homes yet still was able to finish 18th with 446 points. If there was not a conflict this weekend, the Bishop Kenny girls at full strength certainly could have projected to finish well inside the top 10. 

The fastest Florida girls individual performance belonged to Osceola's Elle Mehltretter and she clocked a swift time of 18:16 for 36th place. Only 10 seconds off her PR from the North Port Invitational and just two days after finishing 8th in the 3A state race with a time of 18:48. 

1A state runner-up Caroline Couch of Maclay School was only 7 seconds behind Mehltretter and just behind the IMG duo of Black and Jorde in 48th place of 18:23. It was Couch's second trip this season up to Cary after racing at Great American earlier this season.