Saints sprint toward a State Championship


Courtesy of Patrick Salas

The Trinity Prep Boys Cross Country team lined up together to receive their state championship trophy.


As the Trinity Prep Boys Varsity Cross-Country team lined up for their most important race of the season, they knew they would have to execute.  The Saints travelled to Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee on November 15 to compete in the class 2A cross-country State Championship.  Unlike most sports, the lowest team score wins.  The team had 84 total points to place them first, exceeding runner-up Pine Crest’s 149 points.

Trinity Prep’s seven runners placed ahead of every single other team’s fourth runner, an impressive feat.  Sophomore standout Trent Mandato was the first finisher for the Saints, placing fourth overall with a personal best 5k time of 16:00.3 minutes.  Mandato was followed closely by teammate Jesse Millson, who finished seventh overall at 16:14.1 minutes.

The State Championship win is the 18th state title for Trinity Prep’s Boys Cross-Country program and second consecutive state title for the Saints.  Head coach Ken Vinal now has five State Championships in his 15th year as Trinity’s head coach.

Vinal said that the weather conditions could not have been better for the race, with temperatures in the high 40s and plenty of sun.  He was extremely satisfied with his team’s elite performance despite the return of only three runners from last year’s state championship team.  Vinal said that his 2014 team is the second fastest that he has ever coached at Trinity, after the 2010 team.  The runners surely met Vinal’s expectations for this season, which were to win a state title and become stronger runners, but he will continue to push them to be even better in the coming seasons.

“We want to be the best team in the state of Florida [in] all classes and one of the top teams in the entire South East,” Vinal said.

Co-captain and junior Jesse Millson said that this year’s state championship team is very different than last year’s.  According to Millson, they like to goof around and have fun but also know what is at stake and when it’s time to get focused.  Fellow teammate and co-captain Chas Cook added that the main difference is the bonding amongst the team.

“What sets the 2013 and 2014 teams apart is the cohesion of their members,” Cook said.  “We are a family, a brotherhood that cannot and will not be separated.”

All seven runners agree that walking together onto the stage to receive their championship trophy was a rewarding and fulfilling moment.  The team’s goal for this year was to defend their state championship, and they were able to work together and achieve that goal.

“It’s a great feeling to be up there with your teammates, who have gone through the same pain you have and yet pushed through it, just as you did, to stand there with you,” Millson said.  “It’s amazing to win with your best friends, and brothers, by your side.”

The Saints began training for the State Championship meet as soon as track season ended in early May.  They attend a two-week camp in the mountains of Brevard, North Carolina each summer where elite teams from all over America endure training in the mountains and various team-bonding activities.

With five of their top seven runners returning next season, the boys varsity cross country team already has their sights set on another State Championship title.

“Since the majority of our top seven runners are coming back next year, this team is poised to be the best that Trinity has ever seen,” Vinal said.  “It will be a great challenge for the runners next season.”

For senior Bo Cherry, it was the first State Championship meet that he had ever competed in.  Cherry said that it felt different from other meets because all the hard work that was executed throughout the season was leading up to the state meet.

“As the state meet was my last time in the Trinity Prep Cross-Country uniform, winning the state title was the best possible end to my season as well as my cross-country career at Trinity,” Cherry said.

The Saints eased through the season, placing first in nine out of their 12 meets including the District, Region and State championships.   Finishing out the season with a State Championship was just the icing on the cake.