Why we picked him: Because no one emerged from a shadow more auspiciously. After running in the wake of all-state teammate (and current Florida freshman) Mark Parrish the previous two seasons, del Monte established himself as the county's premier runner. On a day of local record-setting heat, he won the Hillsborough County championships by nine seconds (16:13.66) and followed with sub-16-minute efforts at districts (second place), regions (seventh) and the Class 4A state meet (fifth), posting a lower time in each successive race. His effort at state (15:22.10) was the county's best by 30 seconds.
Proudest accomplishment: del Monte cites his third-place finish (a personal best 15:03.71) at the flrunners.com Invitational 11 in Titusville in October. Competing in the Race of Champions, the two-day event's signature race, del Monte edged longtime rival (and eventual 3A state runnerup) Elliot Clemente of Miami Belen Jesuit by nearly six seconds. "I think everything went right that day, from what I ate to what I did the night before. Everything just clicked that day," said del Monte, fortified by a hearty pasta meal at a mom-and-pop Italian eatery in Titusville the previous night. "I really couldn't ask for a more perfect day."
Future plans: del Monte, who is homeschooled, suggests he is narrowing his list of colleges, albeit with an open mind. Don't be shocked if he chooses to venture out of state, perhaps out west.
Did you know: Both of del Monte's parents are architects. … Before each race, del Monte etches the initials W.E.D. on his wrists with a Sharpie in honor of his late maternal grandfather, Walter Edward Dombroski.
Jake Covington, Sr., Chamberlain: Finished 17th at 4A state meet in less than 16 minutes.
Bo Nalsen, Sr., Plant: Best runner on county's best team placed 19th at 4A state meet.
Travis Christenberry, Jr., Plant: Two seconds behind Nalsen at state (15:54).
Blake Lopez, Sr., Jesuit: County's top 2A finisher at region (fourth) and state (seventh).
Michael Rosenbach, Sr., Berkeley Prep: County meet runnerup was a 2A district champ.
• Michael Babinec, Jr., Riverview
• Alex Main, Jr., Berkeley Prep
• Alex Newby, Sr., Steinbrenner
• Zach Scott, Sr., Jesuit
• Brian Sharp, Jr., Robinson
Armwood — Brandon Duncan; Berkeley Prep — Shaun Majumdar; Durant — Michael Eidge; East Bay — Olen Dalton; Hillsborough — Fabian Woodard; Newsome — Isaac Baker, Lars Benner, Tyler Moriarty, Justin Martinez; Plant — Curtis Foulsham, Kyler Long, Mark Manion; Robinson — Michael Shuey; Sickles — Jonathon Bermudez; Steinbrenner — Daniel Sarver, Matthew Sarver; Tampa Prep — Yuri Costa, Miller Judge.
Coach of the Year
Bobby McConnell, Steinbrenner: Actually, McConnell's effort might merit coach of the decade consideration. The former Leto High 800-meter extraordinaire led his second-year program — devoid of any real superstar — to a district title and runnerup finish at the Class 2A state meet.