Hawks looking for another strong finish at state; Raney eyes title

Viera High senior Cameron Raney and the defending state champion Hawks are looking for another strong finish at this year's state meet. Raney also has a goal of winning the individual state title. “He wants it and he’s going for it," Viera coach Samantha Gerrits said. "At practice every day, he says, ‘Coach, this is what I want.’ It’s like, ‘OK, I’ll take you there.’”

Cameron Raney knows what it’s like to be part of a state championship cross-country team.

And while the Viera High senior wants to see the Hawks finish as high as they possibly can in the team standings at this year’s Class 4A state championship meet, he also has his eyes set on bringing home the gold in the individual race.

“Cameron wants the state win,” Viera coach Samantha Gerrits said after an early-season race. “This is all just training for him. All these meets … it means something. But ultimately, that’s what he’s going after.”

Of course, should Raney become Viera High’s first ever individual boys state champion, it would certainly help the Hawks in their defense of last year’s Class 4A state title.

While Viera clearly has the talent to finish among the state’s best, the graduation of Michael Toppi, Robbie Naberhaus, Joshua Ingalls and Riley Birrup might put a potential repeat just out of reach.

“We lost three guys from the top five,” Raney said. “It’s definitely motivated us a lot more to stay up there and see if we can at least finish in the top five at states.”

With Raney now at the top the Hawks’ lineup, the next two runners are senior Aedan Rendek and senior newcomer Aidan Carroll.

Sophomore Jack Girard, who turned out to be the deciding runner in last year’s state championship race, returns and will be running alongside his younger brother, Michael Girard.

Junior transfer Morgan Vici could also have an impact. Other top runners for Viera are sophomore Braxton Albright and sophomore Jansen Joss.

While Gerrits said another state title run is possible, but not probable for the Viera boys, there’s no doubt last year’s success has had an impact on this year’s group.

“It definitely amped everything up for everyone,” she said. “They knew coming in that we were so strong last year. The boys that are returning were like, ‘This is a big deal for us. We were just juniors last year and Jack Girard was just a freshman.’

“They’re coming back knowing that they’re super strong already and they can only bring the team up from there.”

Raney, meanwhile, said he ha been in touch constantly with Toppi, who finished second in the state last season before moving on to Florida State.

“Him and I have been texting every day, talking about training, talking about running,” Raney said. “Everything.”

The state meet is set for Nov. 5 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

“I’m really excited,” Raney said. “I’m ready.”