VHS Crosscoutry

Viera High freshman Celina Coryell, left, and senior Cameron Raney pose after running at the 50th annual Astronaut Invitational cross-country race. Coryell has been running in the top spot for an improved girls team while Raney and the Viera boys are the defending Class 4A state champions.

There’s plenty of optimism around the Viera High cross-country program this season, in part because of an influx of new talent.

The Viera boys are coming off the best season in program history, winning the Class 4A state championship in 2021. And while the Hawks lost four seniors off that team — including a pair of top 10 finishers in Michael Toppi and Robbie Naberhaus — there’s still plenty of motivation and talent to be among the state’s best teams once again.

“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,” senior Cameron Raney said.

The Viera girls, meanwhile, are expecting to be back at Tallahassee’s Apalachee Regional Park thanks in part to two new runners at the top of their lineup.

“Last year was kind of a rebuilding year,” Viera coach Samantha Gerrits said. “This year, we’ve got two freshmen girls that are super fast, so it leads us to have a really strong team. Right now, we’re kind of struggling on the team aspect, but we’ll work through it.”

Freshmen Celina Coryell and Addison Elwell have certainly given the program new life as they make the push for the state meet, combining with senior veterans Brooke Gerrits and Isabella Narvaez.

Sophomore Maddie Helms turned in two strong performances at the Astronaut Invitational and the Spanish River Classic and could be ready to take over the No. 5 spot.

Other top runners for Viera include seniors Chelsea Paglia and Trinity Trett along with freshman Rachel Devoid.

After helping the Hawks to a second-place finish at the Astronaut Invitational, Coryell was asked about making the move to compete at the high school varsity level.

“It’s been really good,” Coryell said. “We have a really supportive team and a really good coach. I’m really happy with where I’m at and the people I’m running with. They’re really helpful and they push me to be better.”

The Viera boys, meanwhile, have been doing well as they try to replace Toppi, Naberhaus, Joshua Ingalls and Riley Birrup.

Raney finished second overall at the Spanish River Classic, while senior Aedan Rendek was fourth and senior newcomer Aidan Carroll was sixth.

Sophomore Jack Girard is also back along with his younger brother, Michael Girard, who could have an impact along with transfer Morgan Vici.

Other top runners 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.”