St. Thomas Aquinas’ cross country program has always prided itself on being “family” – but this season it will be a real family affair.
For the first time, brothers Sean, Colin and Aiden Breslin will compete on the same team.
Aiden, 14, a freshman will make his varsity debut. Colin, 15, a sophomore, competed last season. And Sean, 18, a senior, is among the top five State 4A runners, ranked fifth in 16:22.
“It’s great to have my brothers on the team,” said the oldest Breslin brother, whose mom Kara McCormick (1984-87) also ran at St. Thomas Aquinas and is now her sons’ No. 1 fan.
“I don’t think they will be knocking on my doorstep anytime soon, but by the time I am gone and they are seniors they will be way faster and blow my times away. They are very fast now in comparison to when I was a freshman.”
Senior teammate Pierce Statham is ranked third in 16:15, junior Nicholas Rischar is ranked sixth in 16:22 and senior Ivan Donaher is ranked ninth in 16:29.
No team is more favored to win back-to-back state titles than the defending state Class 4A champion Raiders. The team, which has won two state titles in three years, returns five of its top seven runners, all in the 16’s.
Statham, the team captain, Breslin, Rischar, and Donaher join Antonio Martinez in the top five. After that, nine runners are competing for the last two spots.
“There is no beating the boys’ team,” said Raiders coach Trish Butler, who along with Joe Hazera are coaching the team. “The team average of teams behind us is an entire minute.”
While depth and talent are the No. 1 pre-season ranked Raiders’ strengths, Butler said the team needs to avoid being lulled into complacency.
“If our kids get complacent or satisfied where they are that’s going to make a few underdog teams hungry,” Butler said. “We are not where I think we should be but we have 12 weeks to go until state.”
Defending 2A state champion Trinity Prep has the fastest returning squad in the state. Seniors Trenton Mandato (15:34) and Patrick Salas (15:50) are ranked among the top three in the state.
“We are not starting out in our first meet where we want to be,” Butler said. “It will make us work even harder for those state rings and basking in the spotlight.”
Breslin, the team’s top finisher at state in 16:26, is confident the team will respond to any and all challenges during the regular season and peak at the right time in the post-season.
“There is a target on our back from the whole state,” Breslin said. “Locally, we are always a target. There’s a lot of pressure to try and get another state championship. I know I want to be a lot faster; I am hoping 15s. I want to carry my team to another state title.
“I think the whole team is going to drop time. Our team has a lot of depth and there is a lot of competition within the team. We are always pushing and motivating each other and fighting for that No. 1 spot.”
Pine Crest is another top boys’ team in the state with five returning seniors. The Panthers, led by top runner Michael Kennedy, won the District 15-2A title for the sixth year in a row, region title for the third year in a row and finished third at state last season.
Kennedy is coming off an outstanding summer of track and cross country base training at the Brevard Distance Running Camp. He was seventh in 16:17 at state.
“I have been running for Coach Baur since seventh grade,” said Kennedy, a three-time state cross country qualifier. “In cross country, I would like to finish on the podium and take the team with me. I would like to have a great last year.”
Pine Crest competes in the state’s toughest classification along with Trinity Prep, Satellite, Bolles and Bishop Kenny. Still, the goal is finishing in the Top 5 at state for the third year in a row.
“We have a really solid group of boys,” said Pine Crest coach Paul Baur. “Our core seniors have been a part of this team for five years. They work really well together. It’s going to be a good group this year. We are fortunate to have seniors. It’s tough to put together something special with freshmen and sophomores, they need time to develop.”
Calvary Christian junior Danny Ferro returns as one of the county’s top runners. Ferro broke 16 minutes (15:59) for the first time at the Foot Locker South Regional in North Carolina where he won the junior class race. It was the fastest time among sophomores. He won the District 15-2A title, was third at the Region 4-2A meet and sixth at the State 2A meet in 16:16.47, fastest time among Broward athletes. Ferro is ranked 13th among 1,000 of the state’s runners by flrunners.com.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Sean Breslin, St. Thomas Aquinas; Michael Cabral, Pine Crest; Danny Ferro, Calvary Christian; Ivan Donaher, St. Thomas Aquinas; Brandon Flagler, Monarch; Michael Kennedy, Pine Crest; Antonio Martinez, St. Thomas Aquinas; Giovanni McPhee, McArthur; Michel Normil, Taravella; Jose Penalver, Cooper City; Nicholas Rischar, St. Thomas Aquinas; Patrick Sastre, Westminster Academy; William Shine, Archbishop McCarthy; Pierce Statham, St. Thomas Aquinas; Ryan Szlany, Highlands Christian.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 4A: St. Thomas Aquinas (boys), Winter Park (girls)
Class 3A: Creekside (boys), Lawton Chiles (girls)
Class 2A: Trinity Prep (boys), Bolles (girls)
Class 1A: Father Lopez (boys), Circle Christian (girls)
Sept. 3, Park Vista Cobra Country Invitational
Sept. 3, DDD Sommer Invitational, Estero Park
Sept. 9, King of the Hill, Miami
Sept. 10, Titusville Astronaut Invite
Sept. 17, 34th Spanish River Invitational
Sept. 22, Pine Crest Invitational, Mills Pond Park
Sept. 24, Mountain Dew UF Invitational, Gainesville
Sept. 29, Westminster Christian Warrior Invite, Coral Reef Park
Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Flrunners.com Invite 16, Titusville
Oct. 7, 305 Classic, Larry & Penny Thompson Park
Oct. 7-8, Disney XC Classic, Kissimmee
Oct. 8, FSU Pre-State Invite, Apalachee Regional Park
Oct. 13, BCAA Championships, Markham Park
Oct. 17-22, District meets
Oct. 27-29, Region meets
Nov. 5, State meet, Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee
Nov. 12, USATF Junior Olympic XC Championship, Lakeland
Nov. 19, National Youth Championships, Evansville, Ind.
Nov. 19, FACA Senior All-Star Classic, Tallahassee
Dec. 3, AAU National Championships, Oakville, Ala.
Dec. 10, Foot Locker Nationals, San Diego