The Paradise Lady Panthers followed up a district championship with the Class 2A Region II title at Arlington Saturday.Paradise advanced to the state cross country meet Saturday at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock. The Class 2A girls are scheduled to run at 10:50 a.m.
It was a banner day for a program that is trying to turn things around.
“We are trying to build a program here at Paradise,” coach Eddie Fortenberry said. “This is a great start. We are thrilled. Winning a district championship and now region champs, it is a huge step in the right direction.”
The formula they used to win a district title worked again, as the pack of Lady Panthers dominated the 11th through 27th positions to wrap up the title with 69 points. Pilot Point placed second with 111, and Alvord was third with 114.
“It will help us at state, too,” Fortenberry said about the group running of Paradise. “We don’t have top-10 runners. We just all run in a pack, and that is how we get our points.”
Sophomore Kaylee McConnell was the first Lady Panther to cross the finish line, in 11th place with a time of 12:51.
Paradise placed 13th last year at the regional meet, and McConnell knows the program took a big step Saturday.
“It is really indescribable because Paradise hasn’t been to state in forever,” McConnell said. “People don’t know how good we are, but we are proving to them now that we are awesome.”
Bailey Sides was close behind McConnell in 16th place with a time of 13:02. Emily Brinson took 18th in 13:06, and Emily Corbin captured 22nd in 13:06.
Ashley Sparks was Paradise’s fifth runner to cross the finish line, in 24th place with a time of 13:14. Makala Neighbors ran 13:23 for 27th, and Angela Powers took 51st in 13:58.
“I’m very excited,” Sides said about advancing. “This has been our goal for a long time and I’m just happy that we can accomplish it together. We work hard every day, and it has paid off.”
The Lady Panthers are not done yet. They plan on keeping this tremendous run going Saturday at the state meet.
“We have a dream, and we are not done yet,” Fortenberry said. “We want to go down there and win it, not just show up.”