Viera’s Toppi caps off incredible senior season with spot in national championship race

Michael Toppi finished an incredible senior season when he ran at the Eastbay Cross-Country Championships in San Diego's Balboa Park. A week earlier, Toppi became the state record holder when he finished a 5K course in 14:41.45 at the Garmin RunningLane Cross-Country Championships at John Hunt Park in Huntsville, Ala.

After finishing his freshman track season at Viera High, Michael Toppi began thinking about what kind of goals he wanted to achieve over the next three years of running cross-country.

One by one, he’s checked them all off.

State record holder? Check.

Being part of the first boys cross-country state championship team in school history? Check.

Running in the Eastbay Cross-Country Championships?

The Viera High senior checked that one off last month, traveling to San Diego to take part in the national championship event at Balboa Park.

“It was life-changing,” Toppi said. “You get to hang out with some of the best runners in the country, and even professional athletes.

“And then on top of that, you get to race.”

The event itself didn’t go as well as Toppi had planned. He finished 30th overall in a time of 15:57.40.

“I felt like I should have put myself up in the pack earlier,” he said. “… It’s a really difficult course. There’s a really big hill on it and the surface is always changing.

“It starts out as grass, then it goes to a little bit of mulch and dirt and concrete. You can’t ever really get in a rhythm.”

A week before heading to California, Toppi became the new state record holder when he ran 14:41.45 at the Garmin RunningLane Cross-Country Championships at John Hunt Park in Huntsville, Alabama. That beat the previous state record by more than three minutes.

But that’s just part of what Toppi accomplished during his senior season.

In November, he led Viera to its first-ever Class 4A state championship. Toppi placed second overall, which is the highest finish ever for any Viera runner at the state meet.

Wait, one more thing …

He also signed to run at Florida State University, his dream school.

Can anyone have had a better senior year?

“I had a plan coming into this season and I feel like I have a continuous trend for each season where I just kind of surprise myself,” Toppi said. “I feel like I surprised myself again this season.”

While he clearly put in the miles training to get ready for his final high school campaign, Toppi concentrated on more than just the physical aspect of his sport.

“I worked more on my mental game, just trying to be more confident going into races,” he said. “I felt like last year, I definitely had the speed necessary to run fast. It was just that I would get caught up mentally. It felt like the competition would be too big sometimes and that I wasn’t really one of those guys that could win.

“Changing my mentality this year really helped.”

After finishing third in the 2-mile and fourth in the mile at last year’s Class 4A state meet, you can bet Toppi is looking forward to the spring.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’m already plotting (for) this year about some of the meets I want to do and all the goals I want to achieve.”