After finishing third in 2012, the Paradise Lady Panthers came to Round Rock with hopes of securing a state crown.
But in a spread-out field, the Lady Panthers had to settle for fifth Saturday in the Class 2A race at the University Interscholastic League cross country championships at Old Settlers Park.
Paradise finished with 127 points. Eustace captured the state crown with 88, edging Holliday by two. Jim Ned finished third with 93, and Ballinger took fourth with 99.
“Our kids gave everything they had,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig. “They ran a great race. They all came in together. They all had the race of their lives.”
The field became spread out partly because of the blistering pace set early by Crawford’s Annie Dunlap, who led from start to finish. Dunlap crossed the finish line in a Class 2A record 10:59.72 on the 3,200-meter course. She broke the record set by Paradise alum Loren Hodges in 2005 by nearly 19 seconds.
Dunlap finished more than a minute in front of second-place runner Kristaly Munoz of Luling.
Paradise’s Aliyah Read tried to stay with the lead group in the first 800 meters, but fell back after the first mile. She finished 41st in 12:54.66.
Emily Brinson passed Read on the back side of the course and moved up to 36th, finishing in 12:47.77.
“I was telling her we got it and we can do it,” Brinson said. “I gave it everything I had. I felt good. It was hard. It was the hardest that I have ever run.”
April Coursey was the third Lady Panther to finish, crossing the finish line in 13:09.97 for 54th. Taylor Richards took 56th in 13:11.56. Angela Powers finished as Paradise’s fifth runner in 13:13.65 for 61st.
Makala Neighbors took 63rd in 13:14.03, and Kaylee McConnell 71st in 13:19.42.
Alvord’s Lacy Watkins finished 31st in 12:45.06.
Watkins, who missed last year’s state meet because of an injury, was grateful for the opportunity to run in the race for a second time.
“I’m glad I got to come back and redeem myself,” she said. “I’m going to do my best to get back next year.”
Watkins settled into a pack early in the race and tried to keep pace.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be so fast. The pace was very fast. I was surprised how fast I was going,” she said.