Contributed by Kevin Von Maxey, Red Sea Running Club

The last two years in the boys public school division have seemed like déjà vu.  In both 2020 and 2021 Indian Trails (Winter Springs) won back-to-back state championships followed by Emerald Coast in 2nd and Tavares in 3rd.  Will 2022 be any different?  Will these three powerhouse programs go 1-2-3 again or will a newcomer crash the party?

The Favorite:  Emerald Coast Middle School

Last year’s public school state runners-up are led by one of the top runners in the state in FSU Pre-State Champion, Brett Peveto, who will be a contender for the individual state championship.  Emerald Coast won the boys championship in 2019 so their coaches know what it takes to stand on top of the podium and they have the depth and experience to do it again this year.  The boys from Santa Rosa Beach are undefeated this year and comparing each of the top contenders, have the best #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 runners and would have the top tiebreaker as well.  Simply put, this is Emerald Coast’s state championship to lose.  They are heads above the rest of the competition and it would take an off day to open the doors for any other team. 

The Top Contender:  Indian Trails (Winter Springs)

If there is a team that has the depth, experience, talent, and coaching to pull off the upset, it is Indian Trails (Winter Springs).  The 2020 and 2021 state champions return TWO top 10 runners from last year in Jack Nugent and Cole Herbert and a strong top 5 that has all 5 runners under 11:33 this season, and their top 4 runners under 11:17.  If Nugent and Herbert can track Peveto in the race and their #5 runner can have a great day, it would be a single digit race that anyone could win. 

The Others:  Ruckel, Deerlake, Fairview, Tavares

Ruckel is actually our 3rd ranked team in the field and if that comes as a bit of surprise it’s because for years they have been known to run together very well as a pack and have a tight 40-second 1-5 split.  Small splits in state championships score very well and this team is in that perfect sweet spot to surprise a lot of teams.  Ruckel ran very in the Okaloosa Middle School Championships with 5 in the top 10 and 12:16 average for the two mile course as they took home the win.   

Deerlake out of Tallahassee is our 4th ranked boys team and could absolutely win it all on the swift feet of their top 3 runners who have all run in the 10s this year.  Deerlake actually fell to Montford in the Leon County Championships by just a few points but have the “formula” for winning a major state race with a lot of teams—3 guys in the 10s and their 5th runner under 11:30.  Don’t be surprised if three Deerlake runners medal in the top 20 and it’s up to the 4/5 guys to bring it home. 

Fairview is an interesting case because they boast the #1 ranked public school runner in Jack Koon, who has run 9:58 this year in a 3K.  They also have Emari Thomas whose 10:18 time gives them the best 1-2 punch on the list and even though they have a solid #3 as well, they will need big time PR’s from their 4/5 runners to reach the podium.  But if Koon gets the “1”, it’s like they are running with only 4 runners. 

Finally, never count out Tavares Middle School.  The 2016 state champions and 2014 and 2017 state runners-up always show up to big time races and run their best—and it shows with an almost unbelievable 12-year streak where they have placed no lower than the 6th best public school and were the top public school 4 times. Even though they are ranked 6th according to this season’s PRs, the Lake County Champions won 10 races this year…but were beaten convincingly in head-to-head matchups with both Emerald Coast at Pre-State and Indian Trails at Flrunners.

My personal  virtual meet…

1 Emerald Coast 69
2 Indian Trails WS 125
3 Ruckel 143
4 Deerlake 147
5 Fairview 164
6 Tavares 169
7 East Ridge 175
8 Neptune 185
9 Destin 233
10 Oakleaf 261
11 Indian Trails PC 292
12 Gulfview GCR 366
13 Creekside 391
14 Cypress Palm 412
15 Rampello K-8 414
16 North Naples 425
17 Don Estridge 430
18 Ammons 441
19 Ormond 465
20 Lecanto 467



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