XC Legacy: 1979 Boys National XC Rankings

1978<<<    >>>1980


If you have ever been a part of a state championship team you know the feeling of accomplishment accompanied with victory. Each year there come very special programs across the country that step beyond simply winning and into a realm of total domination. It is in these moments of triumph that the questions of team's "greatness" are raised. Extraordinary accomplishments that warrant recognition and validation to set in stone once and for all, their XC Legacy. 


(Recap) In 2004 Nike changed the face of prep cross country with the implementation of Nike Team Nationals. After decades the hopes and dreams of avid cross fans were finally realized. Hosted by Nike, NTN allowed the top XC programs in the nation to compete in one true national championship race at Portland Meadows. Many state associations do not allow prep teams to travel so teams register as clubs in order to compete in this post season event.


The pinnacle event for the prep cross country team is earning a berth to Nike Cross Nationals. The goal of every prep team is to hoist the NXN National Championship Trophy, proclaiming the true national champions. The honor and prestige of traversing the Portland Meadows course as team victor welcomes the winning team into an elite fraternity of champions that stretches back three decades.


Nike Cross Nationals and all that the event represents to the sport of cross country undeniably traces its roots, inception, and excitement to one moment and one man over three decades ago. In 1973 New York Times free-lance reporter Marc Bloom looked across the nation and saw a lack in comprehensive coverage for prep cross country and came up with a revolutionary idea. An idea that would pump new life and energy into high school cross country. The single most profound event prior to the emergence of Nike Cross Nationals three decades later, The Harrier Magazine!


In 1974 Marc Bloom developed and implemented a network for prep cross country on a national scale by releasing detailed summaries of every state. The culminating event for The Harrier magazine was the release of the Harrier Top-50 High School All-Americans.


The winds of change came in 1976 when Harrier released the first national team rankings in US history. A new buzz and excitement spread throughout the nation as top programs sought fervently to be crowned National Champions by The Harrier magazine. Team rankings were again released in 1977, following the 1977 season The Harrier was discontinued until being resurrected by Bloom in 1989. XC Legacy has sought to bridge the gap from that final 1977 season until the 1989 season.


The significance of those four seasons from 74’-77’ in the scope of prep cross country cannot be understated. Without the efforts of Marc Bloom to network and harness the energy that is prep cross country there would have not been a platform for Nike Cross Nationals.


The Harrier 1989 rankings came at the perfect moment and for a decade teams from the four corners of the nation sought the coveted Harrier National Championship. It was this energy, and this excitement that inspired the creation of the Nike Cross Nationals…the nation’s true prep team championship.


Perhaps now a spotlight can rest on those teams who deserve recognition for superior national performances.



XCLegacy BIG-15 National Rankings

by Aron & David Taylor 

Place Team/State Season Accomplishment
1 Astronaut, Florida (Nick Gailey) State 3A Champions
1 Largo, Florida (Brent Hailey) State 4A Champions
3 Lancaster, Ohio State AAA Champions
4 Maine East (Parkridge), Illinois State AAA Champions
5 St. Xavier, Kentucky State AAA Champions
6 Kennewick, Washington State AAA Champions
7 Williston, North Dakota State Class A Champions
8 Christian Brothers Academy, New Jersey New Jersey Meet of Champions
9 Foothill, California CIF SS Champions
10 Tuba City, Arizona State AAAA Champions
11 York, Illinois State AAA Runner-up
12 South Eugene, Oregon State Champions
13 Carmel, Indiana State Champions
14 North Hills, Pennsylvania State Champions
15 Thousand Oaks, California CIF SS Runner-up


“Life’s battle doesn’t always go to the swifter or faster man,

But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”-Motto, Astronaut H.S.




Largo H.S., Largo, FL (Coach Brent Haley)

Astronaut H.S., Titusville, FL (Coach Nick Gailey)


Throughout the annuals of history triumph always proceeds from disappointment and loss.  Entering the 1979 season were two colossal cross country programs out of the state of Florida who would rewrite the record books and display the power of one decision to be more and do more.  For Astronaut H.S. of Titusville, FL, the path to the 1979 National Championship began at the 1977 State Championship; for Largo H.S. of Largo, FL, the journey to what would be the first of two National Titles for Legend Brent Haley (pictured right) in five years began at the 1978 Florida State Championships.




In 1977 Astronaut High School had completed a remarkable season winning every invitational they competed in.  No team in the state was even close to the “pack attack” out of Titusville, Florida.  On one occasion they had actually split their varsity 7 into two teams supplemented with Junior Varsity runners and competed on the same weekend in the two major Florida Invitational meets and won both!  As the team boarded the busses to travel to the State Meet held in Deland, Florida, victory seemed inevitable and spirits were high.  This was a team with support unseen in the history of Florida cross country, winning in record low scores with 1500 to 2000 supporters at most meets they competed in, including a marching band for their home invitational.  Many in the community of Titusville felt a sense of ownership for the success of Coach Nick Gailey’s (pictured right) young men and none more then the father of the top girl on the Astronaut team, Steve Flack.  Steve brought a sense of passion and support that inspired the young men and women of Astronaut High School to be more and do more.    


Tragedy struck the Astronauts on their way to the 1977 State Meet and the innocence of youth was replaced with the reality of absolute loss.  As Coach Gailey explains, “we had two busses and Steve was in his own car with his daughter, the top girl on the team, and his son.  On the way to State a drunk driver hit them and there was a big wreck.  We were the back bus, so when we got to the wreck Steve’s kids were being rushed to the hospital, we didn’t know their status, if they were alive or dead, and Steve was gone, it was incredibly tough for the kids to see that and not knowing…we didn’t know if we should continue on, but we did…”  Only hours later, the visibly and emotionally shaken Astronaut boys toed the starting line, the once unstoppable force seemed overcome with the moment, the confusion and the loss and yet they pressed on, offering no excuses, and remained steadfast in the face of tremendous adversity.  Unfortunately it was too great of a physical and emotional drain and they finished second to Titusville cross town rival, Titusville High School 55-59, a four point defeat to a team they had previously defeated by high double digits on six occasions during the season; one occasion being that weekend they split their team and won with only three of their varsity runners competing.  Without knowing of the tragic accident, in 1977 Harrier Editor Marc Bloom stated that Astronaut H.S. “Dominated state’s top teams weekly and would have been top five if not for the narrow State upset”.  Further review, indicated that they were the most dominating team of the season for any state that year, who suffered inexplicable loss and sorrow only hours prior to the culmination of a perfect season. 


Upon completion of the meet the team got together, found out their teammate and her brother had survived, but Steve Flack had not.  At that moment of despair Coach Gailey and the team rallied behind the cause of being more and do more.  They committed to doing together what had never been done before in the State of Florida, winning three consecutive state titles, and as Coach Gailey asked, “will you believe?” they all said “Yes”, among those athletes was Sophomore Ken Correnti, and one of the great dynasties in the state of Florida began, a story that will be told in the still to come 1977 XC Legacy chronicle.




In 1978, Astronaut H.S. would end up eighth in the nation, finishing the season with a state record low 29 points. The only loss Astronaut experienced was a narrow loss delivered by 4A powerhouse US#5 Largo High School of Largo, Florida in the initial meet of the season.  Largo claimed a 32-37 victory in a meet which was determined by an amazingly low combined 8 seconds between each teams 4th and 5th runners.


1978 would also turn out to be a season of intense competition on the 4A scene, dominated by US#4 Lakewood and US#5 Largo who would face nine times that season with Largo claiming victory six times by very close margins.  For legend Brent Haley the 1978 state meet would prove to be the most devastating loss of his career, with victory coming for Lakewood 47-52 over Largo.  Coach Haley states, “You never appreciate winning unless you lose, there is no complacency after loss, especially when you know you could have done better”.  




Entering the 1979 season all eyes were on Florida as two of the most dominant programs of 1978 returned teams with depth unseen in nearly a decade.  The season began with the Astronaut Invitational, on a day which was at the time, the worst in recorded history for that season.  As the rain poured and the mud accumulated under conditions more suitable for rugby, the boys of Largo and Astronaut faced off.  To put the conditions in perspective, the course record was 14:42.


Coach Haley (pictured right) of Largo remembers the day, “we were worried about Astronautbecause of how great Coach Gailey was at pack training, and I 100% believe that in this way he was the best coach in Florida History.  So we go into Titusville and they had 1500 people at the meet despite the weather.  We focused on being team oriented that day because of the weather and Basil Magee just took off so everyone packed up and it affected the results of the meet, it could have been much closer, but you know weather.”

University of Florida Invitational (30 teams)

Team Score: 35-160 (Largo 1st)

Conference Championships

Team Score: 21-64 (Largo 1st)

District Championships

Team Score: 68-92 (Largo 1st)

Region Championships

Team Score: 39-82 (Largo 1st)

Coach Gailey of Astronaut continues, “We went into the meet with no interest or intention of winning, we are a State Championship centered team.  Winning the meet was never our focus, keeping the pack tight was our only philosophy which required our top leaders to remain with the team until the last 6 -800 yards.  On that day I knew Largo would go out and run to win that meet, they had Basil Magee, an incredible runner and when he went out fast Largo would go with him, which was not our style, especially in the first meet of the season.  We were trying to build a tight pack for mid to late season”


Basil Magee of Largo would win in 15:56 followed by Keith Brantley of Winter Haven in 16:03.  In the end, Largo would win the meet 44-57 in a meet that was not an indicator of the magical season to come.


Coach Haley explains, “From 1970 to 1987, every year we won state or beat the team who did; we tried to win every meet, every time, and perhaps fell short because of that, but we did make everyone earn it.”


1979 Astronaut Invitational Results




1. Largo 44


2. Astronaut 57


3. Titusville 120


4. Rockledge 136


5. South Plantation 190


6. Merritt Island 207


7. Hernando 221


8. Plantation 228


9. Bay Shore 228


10. Deland 253


11. Winter Haven 260


12. Bishop Kenny 284


13. Vero Beach 352


14. Ocala 398






At this point Largo would go onto to win the Largo Invitational and Florida State University Invitational.


Largo Invitational (16 teams)

Team Score: 28-104

Team Times: 15:09, 15:18, 15:18, 15:22 and 15:23.


Florida State University Invitational (23 teams)

Team Score: 35-160


Astronaut High would go onto victory at the Rockledge Invitational and prepare intensely for a rematch against Largo at the Winter Haven Classic, albeit without top runner Ken Correnti who would be out of competition for the next four meets.  Correnti was the runner up at the 78’ State Championship and was also the top returning scorer from the 1977 team who had faced such hardship to close out their season.  Losing Correnti was a huge loss, but Astronaut was ready for the dual with Largo regardless.


Rockledge Invitational (16 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 34-91

Team Times: 15:52 (Zayas), 16:04 (Stephens), 16:09 (Rice), 16:10 (George), 16:13 (Lewis)


It would be on September 22nd of 1979, at Polk Junior College that Largo and Astronaut would clash in a battle of epic proportions at the Winter Haven Classic.  This meet would be the indicator of national relevance and state dominance.  It was hot and humid as the 10 teams gathered for the start.  As expected the dual between largo’s Basil Magee and Winter Haven’s Keith Brantley began immediately as the follow pack was comprised of two runners from Largo and five from Astronaut.  For 3 miles Largo and Astronaut ran side by side, runner for runner until the final quarter mile.  At the finish everyone was in shock as the scores tallied to a tie, 35-35.  On a 6th runner evaluation Largo took 15th in 15:56 and Astronaut 17th in 15:58, with Largo winning by a 2 second margin.  More amazingly, the Astronauts finished with an 8 second 1-5 spread taking places 5 through 9.  On review of the team average, Basil Magee helps Largos team average with a course record 14:37, but Largo finishes with an average of 15:28 to Astronaut’s 15:35.  To get a clearer picture of how close these teams were, when evaluating the average of runners 2-5 for both teams, Astronaut averaged 15:36 to Largo’s 15:40.  This for Astronaut High who competed without top runner Ken Correnti! 


Clearly vast improvement had been made by both teams and all eyes turned towards the next time the two would be on the same cross country course at the State Meet in Deland, Florida.  For Astronaut this would be a journey of fulfillment for the loss experienced only two years prior as they traveled to the State Meet in Deland as well.


1979 Winter Haven Invitational Results




1. Largo 35

1. Basil Magee, Largo 14:37

2. Astronaut 35

2. Keith Brantley, Winter Haven 14:39

3. Brandon 81

3. Kevin Crawley, Largo 15:29

4. Clearwater 120

4. Rick Higel, Largo 15:29

5. Winter Haven 128

5. Phil Stephens, Astronaut 15:30

6. Merritt Island 134

6. Mark Zayas, Astronaut 15:36

7. Haines City 224

7. Van Savell, Astronaut 15:36

8. Auburndale 242

8. Tony Farris, Astronaut 15:37

9. Lakeland 255

9. Guy George, Astronaut 15:38

10. Countryside 266

10. Allen Krute, Brandon 15:39


11. Oz Enriquez, Brandon 15:41


12. Glen Gorton, Merritt Island 15:50


13. Mark Lincoln, Largo 15:52


14. Bart Sellers, Largo 15:53


15. Bryan Benedict, Largo 15:56


16. Wayne Kraus, Brandon 15:57


17. Chuck Byrd, Astronaut 15:58


18. Danny Rice, Astronaut 15:59


Largo would continue their dominance in winning the University of Florida Invitational in exactly the same score they took the FSU Invitational.  They would take the Conference, District, and Regional titles in dominating fashion and seemed primed to run away with the 4A State Championship.  


ON the other hand, Astronaut High School would win the Dayton Beach Invitational, Eau Gallie Invitational, Deland Triangular, and Vero Beach Dual in record low scores.  Heading into conferences Ken Correnti rejoined the team and they seemed destined to do something remarkable and in scoring a perfect 15 points they did not disappoint.  From there they traveled to the District Championships and again dominated in a record low score with Ken Correnti returning to top form as the individual winner. At Regions Correnti continued his return to dominance in leading the Astronauts to another record low score performance.


Daytona Beach Invitational (16 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 16-101 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Zayas 15:36, Stephens 15:36, Savell 15:41, George 15:42, Farris 15:48, Byrd 15:51, Rice 15:56


Eau Gallie Invitational (10 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 19-62 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Savell 15:06, Stephens 15:19, Zayas 15:19, Farris 15:25, George 15:31, Byrd 15:32, Rice 15:47


Deland Triangular (3 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 15-55 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Farris 15:24, Stephens 15:25, Correnti 15:32, George 15:33, Cunningham 15:39, Rice 15:40, Zayas 15:50


Vero Beach Dual Complete Results

Team Score: 17-44 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Stephens 15:50, Farris 15:50, Correnti 15:55, Rice 15:57, Cunningham 16:05, Byrd 16:11, George 16:23


Cape Coast Conference Championships (11 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 15-91 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Zayas 15:37, Stephens 15:38, Farris 15:39, Correnti 15:40, Savell 15:40, George 15:58, Rice 16:05


District 3 Championships (14 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 26-75 (Astronaut 1st)

Team Times: Correnti 15:20, Farris 15:25, Zayas 15:40, Savell 15:46, Stephens 15:53, George 15:53, Rice 16:01


Regional Championships (12 teams) Complete Results

Team Score: 21-54

Team Times: Correnti 15:21, Farris 15:25, Zayas 15:53, Stephens 15:55, George 16:01, Savell 16:16


Showdown at State: Chase for the National Title


Heading into the State Meet all eyes were on two teams: 3A’a Astronaut High School and 4A’s Largo High School.  The question was which team would post the superior performance on the state course?  In their earlier meeting midway through the season they tied, with the Astronauts running without their top runner.  With Correnti back and having been victorious at Districts and Regions would it be enough to topple the times of the Basil Magee led Largo superpower?  These were the questions to be answered at the 1979 Florida State Championship as the top team would undoubtedly be crowned the top team in the Nation. 


In the 4A race, as expected, Basil Magee was finally toppled by Winter Haven’s Keith Brantley who would post the meet record in 14:18 (4:46 avg) to Magee’s 14:30.  Largo runners would take places 2, 8, 13, 14, 21, 23 and 26 scoring 59 points to second place’s 109 points.  Additionally, their total team average was 15:09.2, an amazing feat considering this was not considered an easy or fast course.  It was 70 degrees, with a humidity of 75%, the skies were clear, the conditions were good and the wind was minimal at 5 miles per hour.  For the Largo faithful, this was redemption for the narrow 5 point loss experienced a year prior.  This was their mountain top and they had ran with reckless abandonment leaving everything they had on the course. As Coach Haley (pictured right) remembers, “I was the right coach, they were the right kids, and it was the right time and they earned it”.  No team had ever performed so well in the state of Florida and yet, attention quickly turned to the other juggernaut, Astronaut High School.


In the 3A race Coach Gailey (pictured bottom right, current program director of the Museum of Idaho) reminded his team that “the highest sacrifice an athlete can make is for the team” and with that collective focus they faced down redemption, to claim their second state title, in fulfillment of the commitment made following 1977’s State Championship.  A promise to do what had never been done before, to win three straight titles, a promise made by Ken Correnti the standard bearer for the Astronaut team.  A young man who could remember vividly the shock and dismay of that 1977 season, the excitement of the 1978 championship, and the quest to fulfill that commitment and to stay on top of the mountain in 1979.


Taking charge from the sound of the gun, Senior Ken Correnti led from start to finish finishing in 14:51, with senior teammate Tony Farris coming in second in 14:52.  When Senior Mark Zayas came in 5th in 15:02 everyone knew something special was happening in Florida that day.  Lightning had struck twice and history was being made.  Junior Guy George came in 12th in 15:20, then Sophomore Van Savell in 17th in 15:26.  The Astronaut team had scored and amazing 36 points and more importantly averaged a team time of 15:06.2. 


Who was the better team?  Both teams had peaked at state and with amazing performances nearly identical, being again within seconds.  Certainly their mid season tie was an indicator of how close these teams were prior to state, but Largo won on the 6th man by 2 seconds; however, the Astronaut 6th man was actually their 7th man as leader Ken Correnti did not compete.  Given the circumstances of that mid season tie all attention should be placed solely upon the concluding season performance of the state meet; in which evaluation of the top 6 runners gives an average of 15:14 to 15:14 average tie. These are two performances that under evaluation show no differentiating variable and thus we award the XC Legacy National Cross Country Championship to both Largo High School and Astronaut High School, the best of the nation in 1979.   


1979 State Championships Link to Results

















































In the following spring, Largo high would place 5 runners under 4:20 for the mile.

Basil Magee 4:08

Bart Sellers 4:16

Rick Higel 4:18

Kevin Crawley 4:19

Brian Benedict 4:19