Toppi dominates as Viera boys cruise to easy win at Astronaut Invitational

Viera High senior Michael Toppi pulled away from the field in the final mile to win the Astronaut Invitational 5K cross-country race Saturday at Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville. The Hawks placed five runners in the top 12 to easily win the team title.

TITUSVILLE – The conditions may have been tough, but Viera High’s Michael Toppi made it look easy.

The senior seemed to toy with the field Saturday morning at the Astronaut Invitational, pulling away in the final mile to win the boys 5K race by nearly 30 seconds at Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville.

“Today went really well,” Toppi said. “The first two miles, I just tried to stay consistent and keep it at an easy effort. The last mile, I gassed it.

“I was trying to finish hard and create the gap between the guys in second and third and just come out with an easy win today.”

With four other Hawks finishing in the top 12, it was also a pretty easy win for the Viera boys in the team competition as well. Viera finished with 31 points while second-place Winter Springs had 101.

Viera’s girls, meanwhile, got a 12th-place finish from junior Brooke Gerrits and placed fourth overall, which was the highest finish for among Brevard County teams.

Heavy rains from Friday night resulted in a wet, muddy course on Saturday morning. And if that weren’t enough, the rising heat and humidity made things challenging for all runners as well.

Though Gerrits said she didn’t have her best race on Saturday, she was pleased with the way she was able to handle the conditions. She finished with a time of 20:39.

“I was pretty strong mentally (today),” Gerrits said. “I knew the course was going to be tough. I just kept telling myself to push through.”

Of the eight Viera girls that ran on Saturday, seven of them are juniors.

Isabella Narvaez finished 15th with a time of 20:56. She was followed by Chelsea Paglia in 22:23 and Trinity Trett in 22:48.

Danielle Contreras, the only senior in the group, was the next Viera runner across the line in 23:04. Isabella Schiffer finished in 23:20. Rebecca Devoid came in at 23:47 and Gabriela Shenbaum had a time of 25:21.

Toppi’s winning time was 15:46, far below his best time of the season (15:33) and his PR (15:08). But it was enough to outdistance second-place finisher Nick Carpenter of Trinity Prep, who finished in 16:13.

“The next three weeks, we’re going to have some really fast races, so I’m going to start trying to definitely going out faster and getting the times down really lower,” Toppi said.

Senior Robbie Naberhaus gave Viera two runners in the top five on Saturday, crossing the line in 16:34. Right behind him was junior teammate Cameron Raney, who was sixth in 16:48.

Junior Aedan Rendek finished eighth in 17:03 and freshman Jack Girard was 12th with a time of 17:38.

Next up for the Hawks was Benjamin Gearhart (19:09.50), sophomore Matthew Naberhaus (19:09.90) and sophomore Jason Lee (21:07).

The Viera boys, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and No. 2 among all classes in Florida, will face a big challenge next weekend when they go to Spanish River and square off against the team currently ranked No. 1 in the state in all classes – Belen Jesuit.

Given the way they performed Saturday, it looks like they’re ready.

“Today went extremely well for the boys,” Viera coach Samantha Gerrits said. “They proved that they’re the team to beat. They’ve got nothing left they haven’t shown. They’re just fantastic athletes and every day I see them race, I’m more proud.

“… The girls definitely had a harder race than the boys. They seemed to not be feeling it today. It’s going to be work for them to get to where they need to be, but at least they’re willing to do the work. We’ve just got to keep putting (the work) in and we’ll get there.”