HUMBLE — It doesn’t matter if you acquire the first ticket or the last. Getting on the bus to state is the goal.
Waco High’s Alex Salas ensured that he’ll be making that trip by procuring the final individual qualifying spot at the Region III-5A cross country championships Saturday at Atascocita High School.
Salas completed the 5,000-meter course in a time of 16:50.7, finishing 26th overall and coming in as the 10th individual finisher not associated with one of the top four state-bound teams. Under the UIL’s new regional cross country rules this year, that gave the Waco High junior the final qualifying spot in the race.
“Hey, the last one who goes still gets to go,” Waco High coach Casey Summey said. “We’re just so happy for Alex. He’s a great kid, comes from an outstanding family, and they come to every race.”
Summey, a Waco High alumna, said she believes Salas is the first Waco High runner to reach the state meet since Josh Ward in the mid-1990s. That meet will be held Nov. 8 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Salas still has room to run better, too. His season and personal best is 16:22.
The Waco High boys finished 10th out of 24 teams and came in ahead of Manor, which clipped the Lions at the district meet.
On the girls’ side, Waco High was led by Melissa Gonzalez, who came in 86th. University’s girls took 17th as a team, while the Lady Trojans’ Laneisha Latimer finished 67th.
ROCKETING TO WIN: In the Region III-4A meet also held in Humble, Robinson’s boys turned in a dominating performance to win the regional title and move on to Round Rock.
Robinson placed five runners in the top 14 to tally 38 points, seven ahead of second-place Lufkin Hudson.
Robinson’s Austin Speer paced the Rockets in second place overall, running 16:07.50, less than three seconds behind champion Sam Farrell of Lufkin Hudson (16:04.6). Speer’s Rocket teammate Michael Fuentes was third, Johen Deleon came in ninth, Quenten Lasseter placed 10th and Elijah Gutierrez was 14th.
Gatesville’s Abate Hennessey (sixth place) and Mexia’s Guillermo Mendoza (19th) qualified for state as individuals.
On the girls’ side, Fairfield produced five top 20 runners and tied for first with Huffman Hargrave with 81 points. However, the Lady Eagles won the regional title thanks to a better total time.
China Spring also qualified for state as the fourth-place regional team.
Robinson’s Therese Hansen claimed second overall with a 3,200-meter time of 11:57.90, punching her ticket to state. Other individual qualifiers included Gatesville’s Jordan Brock (third place) and Robinson’s Faith Butler (24th).
LADY PIRATES STILL GOLDEN: Despite the graduation of 2013 state champion Ann-Marie Dunlap, who’s now running at Baylor, Crawford still looks like a force in girls’ cross country.
The Lady Pirates charged to the Region III-2A title with 84 points, well ahead of second-place Cushing (104). Chilton finished third to also qualify for state.
Bosqueville placed seventh, Rosebud-Lott was 10th and Riesel came in 11th. Rosebud-Lott did produce the overall champion, however, as sophomore Keauna Whitfield ran 12:28.90 to win. Moody’s Emily Bounds (second) and Rapoport’s Charis Landon (11th) also punched their tickets to state.
Crawford was paced by Micaela Rodriguez in seventh place.
No Central Texas boys’ teams reached state out of Region III-2A, but five made the cut as individual qualifiers: Valley Mills’ Terrance Barnes, Crawford’s Zachary Price, Rosebud-Lott’s Joe Vest, Dawson’s Seth Lachney and Riesel’s Jakob Jones.
Clifton’s Lizzy Duenes won the regional title in the III-3A race, and Bruceville-Eddy’s Kyle Doty took the boys’ title. The Whitney and Bruceville-Eddy boys’ teams also advanced.
In Class 1A, Coolidge’s Dianna Kirven and Maria Ortiz made it through the regional field to reach Round Rock, while Bynum’s Francisco Franco qualified on the boys’ side.