Belen Jesuit enjoyed success during the regular season in cross country but injuries and illness during the last three weeks of the season cost the Wolverines any hopes of winning another state title in 2015.
The Wolverines finished fourth in the Class 3A boys’ race with a 16:48 team average. Creekside won the boys crown (16:28 average) and return a senior-laden team.
Joshua Collins, one of the state’s top returning runners, was top finisher for Belen Jesuit placing third in 15:55. The junior is ranked third in the state among 3A runners.
The Wolverines graduated two seniors but return a solid nucleus of runners and large freshman class hungry to return to the winners’ circle.
“The last three weeks of the season left us out of the hunt,” said veteran head coach Frankie Ruiz, whose team is ranked fourth among Class 3A teams in pre-season polls.
“Our No. 3 runner had mono and we had injuries. It showed us how much depth we lacked and what we needed to do in the future.”
Ruiz said he is trying to “rebuild the pipeline” and attract more runners to the well-established program.
Belen Jesuit has built one of the sport’s most successful programs since 1995 when the Wolverines won their first state title. Belen is second on the all-time state list for most team titles with eight (1995, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). They are second only to Largo with ten titles. In 2014 the team finished third.
Ruiz, now in his 16th season as head coach, has guided seven of those state championship teams.
“We got a dose of sports reality,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. We know what we have done in the past and we want to win again. We had a good summer of training. I am encouraged by this young team.”
Returning off last year’s lineup are sophomore Henrique Souza and junior Christopher Garcia. Ruiz is working with 13 freshmen, eight sophomores, nine juniors and one senior.
“My expectations have adjusted by nature,” Ruiz said. “I am focused on helping Josh be one of the top runners in the state and the young guys. We are investing in the future with these freshmen. We have asked the freshmen to push everyone up front this year. We are not depending on the freshmen, we are investing in our young athletes and the future. It’s a new phase for Belen.”
Belen Jesuit, the No. 1-ranked team in Dade, was second in its’ season-opener Fleet Feet Cross Country Invitational at South Fork High School in Stuart this past week. The Wolverines finished with 41 points behind Satellite with 29. Joshua Collins won the boys individual title in 16:09, an 11-second cushion ahead of Satellite’s Egan Kattenberg. The junior varsity team won the team title with 31 points and seven runners in the top 13.
Belen Jesuit will be joined by several individual talented runners including Ferguson junior Guillermo Rojas, a district runner-up, Coral Reef junior Hunter Dobbs, Braddock junior Eliseo Torres, Ransom Everglades senior Guillermo Wenrich and Doral junior Giovanni Rosado. Coral Reef was 4A state runner-up but graduated the bulk of its team including the Berryhill brothers.
DADE BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Joshua Collins, Belen Jesuit; James Cusack, Ransom Everglades; Hunter Dobbs, Coral Reef; Ryan Fernandez, Coral Reef; Christopher Garcia, Belen Jesuit; DeMauri Little, Coral Reef; Guillermo Rojas, Ferguson; Giovanni Rosado, Doral; Henrique Souza, Belen Jesuit; Eliseo Torres, Braddock; Guillermo Wenrich, Ransom Everglades.
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. 1, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair Championship, 5 p.m.
Sept. 3, Park Vista Cobra Country Invitational
Sept. 3, DDD Sommer Invitational, Estero Park
Sept. 9, King of the Hill, Tropical Park
Sept. 10, Titusville Astronaut Invite
Sept. 17, 34th Spanish River Invitational
Sept. 22, Pine Crest Invitational, Mills Pond Park
Sept. 23, Junior Orange Bowl Invitational, Larry & Penny Thompson 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. 14, GMAC Championship, Larry & Penny Thompson Park
Oct. 15, Naples Lely Invitational, 8 a.m.
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