Unyielding stamina is a job requirement for the cross country runner. So just because the high school season is nearing its completion, that’s no reason to relax and slow down now.
A bevy of Central Texas runners will try to finish strong when they compete at UIL regional meets on Monday at locations around the state. They earned their spots in the regional field based on their performances at the district meets, and now they’ll try to qualify for the UIL State Cross Country Championships, which are slated for Nov. 4 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Both Midway’s boys and girls teams will participate in the Region I-6A meet at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock on Monday. The Panthers took third at the District 8-6A meet while the Pantherettes finished second at district only to Belton. The regional meet will present a major step up in competition, but one runner who should have a shot of getting out to Round Rock is Midway senior Cal Johnston. He has competed as if he were fleeing from a burning building all year, and won the individual district title two weeks ago with a three-mile time of 15:29.73, more than 30 seconds better than the next nearest challenger.
Temple will send both its boys and girls teams to the Region III-5A meet in Huntsville. Waco High’s Anna Garner was among the individual qualifiers, after finishing fourth at the District 18-5A meet in College Station.
The Region III-4A meet in Huntsville will feature eight Central Texas teams – the Gatesville, China Spring, Robinson and Mexia boys, along with the Lorena, Gatesville, Hillsboro and Fairfield girls. The China Spring boys advanced to state a year ago, but the Cougars were nipped by two points at the district meet by an emerging Gatesville team, led by Baylee Ivy, who had his best race of the season with a time of 17:36.8.
Still, China Spring should be a formidable challenger for state, behind experienced veterans like Nathan Vanderpool and Bryce Girard, the latter the reigning district champion.
Gatesville’s Katrina Thoms qualified for state in 2016 and ranks as one of the top runners in the region. She cruised to the District 17-4A crown with a time of 12:47.38 over two miles, 47 seconds faster than the second-place finisher, Lorena’s Kailey Sykora.
Fairfield’s girls picked up the team trophy at the District 18-4A meet, and also should benefit from their past experience. The Lady Eagles finished fourth at the state meet a year ago and have everyone from that team back, including juniors Madison Smith and Morgan Coleman, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 4A state race in 2016.
Huntsville’s Kate Barr Ross Park will also host the Region III-3A Championships and the Region III-2A Championships, which will feature standouts like McGregor’s Ivan Solis, Whitney’s Ryland Holt and Rosebud-Lott’s Jeremy Truesdale on the boys side and Troy’s Cassidy Halfmann, Groesbeck’s Willow Johnson and Valley Mills’ Hannah Dillard in the girls division.
Blum’s girls have three of their top five runners back from a bronze medalist state team, and will be one of the teams to beat at the Region III-1A meet in Grand Prairie. A number of other local teams will venture all the way to Corpus Christi for the Region IV-1A meet.
To qualify for state, teams must finish in the top four at the regional meet. The top 10 individual runners who are not on an advancing team will also move on to Round Rock.