Roundup: Despite Storm, Belen Has Strong Showing At XC Pre-State Invitational

Sharon BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

With four weeks to go until the state cross country meet, Belen Jesuit was the only South Florida team to get a dress rehearsal on the state meet course at the FSU Pre-State Invitational this past weekend.

Because of Hurricane Matthew several teams were forced to remain home.

The Wolverines spent three days in three different hotels before the meet and may have been distracted by the hurricane but still managed to finish third among a field of 21 teams mostly from northern Florida and Georgia at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

The Wolverines, who were leading after the first mile and tied at mile two, finished third with 116 points behind Marist (49) and Chiles (90).

Belen junior Joshua Collins finished runner-up in 15:30 to Chiles junior Michael Phillips in 15:27.

“I expected to do a little better than we did,” Belen coach Frankie Ruiz. “They did get out of their usual routine when we drove to Gainesville and then to Tallahassee and had to change hotels because they were overbooked because of the hurricane.”

“I am thrilled we got the opportunity to race and blessed to have a school that trusts me with my crazy idea to take off early in the week. It turned into a mini-training trip with training in the morning and afternoon. We’re going to use this meet as a positive.”

Other top Belen finishers were: 24. Sebastian Roa, 16:55; 31. Henrique Souza, 17:04.50; 32. Lucas de la Hoz, 17:04.70 and 35. Gabriel Nunes, 17:08.

The Wolverines junior varsity team won the boys select race with 84 points, boding well for the future. Junior Albert Fraga was top finisher placing 12th in 17:45.

“My guys in the back are clawing their way be considered in the top seven,” Ruiz said. “They ran really well. They went to race. I have runners who run the race and runners that race, they definitely went to race.”

The Wolverines have two regular season meets remaining before the post-season begins Oct. 17 with the district meet.

“I am confident we will figure it all out in the next four weeks,” Ruiz said. “The idea of pre-state is to prepare for the state meet. One of the teams that finished 14th at pre-state ended up winning the state meet.”

St. Thomas Aquinas cross country coach Trish Butler, one of the nation’s top masters runners, was fifth in 19:30 in the women’s 5,000-meter race at the Florida State Invitational held a day before the pre-state meet. Her top five finish came a week after her New Balance Tampa Masters Racing team finished second at the USA Track and Field Masters 5K Championship in Syracuse, N.Y. She was second in her age group and 11th overall. “I am super inspired to train even harder now,” Butler said.


St. Thomas Aquinas was the top South Florida finisher with a second-place finish among a 15-team field at the Maverick Invitational at Jacaranda Country Club. The Raiders finished with 291, three strokes behind winner Clearwater Central Catholic (288). Archbishop McCarthy was fourth with 306. Gulliver Prep’s Chris Nido was top medalist with a 68. St. Thomas Aquinas’ top finisher was Anthony Wells with 71.


Ransom Everglades senior and 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier Kyla Valls verbally committed to University of Virginia.

The All-American won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:47.28 against a tough field at the State 1A Swimming Championships last season.

She is one of the county’s most versatile swimmers competing in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles and 200 butterfly. She qualified in all four events for the Trials.

Valls is the second top swimmer to commit. Earlier last week, Pine Crest All-American Marta Ciesla, also a 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, committed to University of Southern California.


Westminster Christian (15-1) is making a run for a second state title. The Warriors finished third in the Gold Division of the Venice Battle at the Beach Tournament on Saturday. Nikkia Benitez and Priscilla Hernandez were selected for the All-Tournament team.

In a 25-23, 25-21 victory over Fort Myers, Benitez had 11 kills, 8 digs and 3 blocks. Hernandez had 12 digs, 10 kills and 9 points. Gabrielle Miller added 7 kills and 2 blocks and Ingrid Savola had 13 assists and 7 digs.

The Warriors defeated Tallahassee Lincoln, 25-14, 22-25, 15-11. Benitez had 17 kills, 13 digs and 2 blocks. Hernandez added 11 kills and 9 digs. Quinn Blanco had 18 assists and 6 digs and Sophia Poveda had 11 points, 6 digs and 4 kills.

The Warriors lost to Venice, 25-23, 25-22 in the final.

The Warriors won their first-ever state title in 2013, a first for any team in Dade County in 13 years. Westminster Christian is also the first Dade team to make four consecutive Final Four appearances.

Also in the Battle at the Beach Tournament, Gulliver Prep dropped both its games, losing to Venice, 25-15, 25-7 and Tallahassee Lincoln, 25-12, 25-18.

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