By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Cross Country/distance track and field fans in the state of Florida will be very familiar with the future of the USF men's team.
The Bulls stayed in-state to sign five student-athletes with Otniel Teixeira (Altamonte Springs), Joshua Pelletier (Naples), Argishti Gazari (Holiday), Michael Babinec (Riverview) and Mario Ojeda (St. Petersburg) making up the program's 2012-13 class.
USF's new recruits will look to add to their already impressive distance resumes once they slip into the green and gold this coming fall.
"This is a great freshman class and I am excited that we could keep them in-state and have that local fan base to build a tradition at USF," coach Dena Reif said Tuesday.
Teixeira has accomplished quite a bit at Lake Brantley High School after winning the Class 4A, District 2 cross country championship in 2011 and receiving all-state honors five times. He's also done a lot of damage on the track by finishing in second place in the open 800 at the Class 4A state meet this past year along with being a member of the school's third-place 4x800 team at state.
Teixiera also won the open 800 at the 2012 FSU Relays, which USF attended, and he finished second in the 1,600. He's currently ranked second in the state in the 1,600 and third in the 800.
"Teixeira is one of Florida's top recruits and he can have an immediate impact on our team in multiple middle-distance events," Reif said. "Teixeira is in contention to compete for two state titles."
Pelletier qualified for the state cross country meet three times and finished 12th in Class 3A last year for Palmetto Ridge High School. Among his other accomplishments is a 2012 Collier County state title in the 1,600 and a sixth-place finish at the 2011 FACA senior all-star meet. He's became the fifth-fastest runner in the state at the 2011 Foot Locker South Region meet.
"Pelletier will be a strong competitor for us in cross country and middle distance in track," Reif said.
Gazari has collected lot of first-place ribbons since he's been at Anclote High School. He won individual cross country titles at the 2011 Land O' Lakes Gator Invitational and at the West Pasco Invitational along with making it to state twice. Gazari also won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the 2012 Sunshine Athletic Conference Championships. Gazari is ranked fifth in the state in the 3,200 and he recently won the event at the Florida Relays and the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational.
"Gazari has come a long way since cross country season and will be a state title contender," Reif said. "He will be our strongest long-distance threat next year."
Babinec finished up his cross country career at Riverview High School with a Class 4A, District 7 title and a runner-up finish at the Class 4A, Region 2 meet. He earned all-state honors by finishing in eighth place at the 4A state meet along with taking third place at the 2011 FACA senior all-star meet. This year he added first-place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Hillsborough Country Federal Division meet.
"Babinec has had a great high school career and will make a difference in our in our cross country team in just his first season," Reif said.
Ojeda has been solid for Northside Christian High School in both cross country and track and field. He became the Class 1A, District 10 cross country champion in 2011 along with winning the Bay Conference meet the same year. On the track, Ojeda took third at the Class 1A state meet last year along with helping Northside Christian's 4x800 squad finish in second. He recently won the 1,600 and 3,200 titles at this year's Bay Conference Championship.
"Ojeda is a fierce competitor who will add to core of other middle-distance signees," Reif said.
A signing class packed with potential should make for an exciting 2011-12 season and Reif is eager for it to get here.
"This men's team next year will be young, but this class can have an impact on our program immediately in the middle and long distance events," she said. "I am excited to start the season next year and know that with the dedication of these young men, that our program's success will come in time."