With 3 weeks left in the Florida Middle School cross country season, this weekend’s FSU Invitational should answer some questions about the top boys in the state. We should see at least 4 of the top 5 ranked boys in the state duel it out at Apalachee Regional Park (ARP).

Individual Boys Rankings

Much like the girls, in order to get a clear picture of what to expect this year we must first take a look back to 2021. In doing so we see that the top 2 boys by time in 2021, Marcelo Mantecon (10:00) and Armando Cruz (10:08),  were only 7th graders and have the potential to duplicate their success this year. The question is not if the boys from Belen can duplicate this feat, but rather, will they even try to? Mantecon is a varsity runner on the Belen High School team, and is the only 8th grader in the country to have cracked the 16 minute mark for 5k. As the #3 man for the Wolverines, they might save his legs to help capture another high school team title and potentially vie for a spot to compete at the Nike Cross National meet in Portland. If Mantecon decides to skip FLYRA, can Armando fill the gap left by his teammate or will we see a new star rise to claim the top spot?

Top 5 Boys as we see it

1) Marcelo Mantecon (Belen Jesuit)

Matecon is the defending FLYRA Private School state champion. His 2021 time of 10:00 was the fastest run on the course that day. As mentioned above, Mantecon is the #3 varsity athlete on a high school team that is currently ranked top 25 in the country. With PRs of 15:48 for xc 5k and a 3k track PR of 9:25, he’ll be hard to beat if he races FLYRA.

2) Skylar Manatt (Wesley Chapel New Tampa Mustangs)

Manatt is undefeated so far this season. His wins at both the Florida Horse Park Invitational (9:52) and the Lecanto Invitational (9:54) were also meet records. He is an athlete that likes to get out hard and push the pace. Ironically, this is the same strategy that Belen has used in all of their state title pursuits. If Manatt has the opportunity to race Mantecon this season, it might be one for the ages.

3) Luke Ross (No Excuses)

Ross is another on the list that is undefeated this season. His most recent victory was at the Katie Caples invitational. His time of 10:01 was 16 seconds better than the 2nd place finisher and happened to also be a 3k cross country PR. Like Manatt ahead of him, it is hard to say where he truly should be ranked being that he has gone unchallenged. It would not be a surprise to see Ross on top of the podium come late October. In addition to vying for an individual title, he will be hoping to help lead his team to a club championship as well.

4) Armando Cruz (Belen Jesuit)

Cruz is the #2 returner from last year’s state meet having run a time of 10:08. The only 3k he has run so far this year was at the Spanish River XC Invitational, where he won in a PR time of 10:03. He also won a 2.1 mile race at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair MS Championships where he ran a time of 11:59. His 5k time of 17:58 at Park Vista is why he has landed #4 on our list. In the same race, his teammate Mantecon finished over a minute ahead of him. If Cruz has Mantecon to push him, they could see another 1-2 in the private school division. If he doesn’t, it will be up to him to try and help lead his team to another state title.

5) Caio Zacchi (Nims Middle School)

The #5 man on our list has the #9 ranked time in the state so far this season of 10:18. He is ranked ahead of his counterparts by virtue of being yet another athlete that is undefeated so far this season. Zacchi’s first race of the season was a victory at ARP in a time of 10:29. His time was 23 seconds faster than Jack Koon, an athlete with a 3k cross country pr of 9:58 and 800m track PR of 2:12. It will be interesting to see if Zacchi competes at FLYRA, or if he calls it a season after the LCS MS Series in Tallahassee.

Honorable Mention

Salvatore Giove, Jack Koon, Sean Cunningham, Gavin Poucher, Octavio Blandon

These rankings are purely the opinion of the author. We believe that a race is not won until it has been run. If you’d like to discuss the rankings, please feel free to join our Forum or our Facebook group.