Taylor Clayton set a high standard in 2013, sprinting to the finish line at Round Rock with a state title.
As the 2014 season starts, a new set of Wise County runners will aim for lofty goals. Here’s a brief look at the area Wise County teams.
RELOADING, NOT REBUILDING
Decatur cross country coach David Park has a mantra in his program.
“Tradition doesn’t graduate, it’s just your turn,” Park said.
With only one member of the 2012 state title team left, Tyler Wilson, it’s up to a whole new cast to carry on the Decatur tradition. Wilson, one of the team’s captains, believes the young team has a shot to making it back to Round Rock.
“We have a good chance. We have a lot of young guys and they’ve all been working hard,” said Wilson, who was 49th in 17:45 last year at state. “I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’ve seen them come a long ways already.”
Parker Collup, Joaquin Aldape and Riley Keller return from last year’s state squad. They are joined by Bryce Hoyt, a sophomore, who won the junior varsity title last year at district.
“We’re a young group. We’ve got to get the work in to get there,” Hoyt said. “We have the confidence. We have to have the discipline to do it.”
Wilson points out that they don’t have to get several in the top 10 to have a shot at title or the medal stand.
“If you can pack together in cross country in the top 30, you can potentially win the meet,” he said.
In the new District 8-4A, the Eagles will be away from old rival Sanger. They will be joined by Bridgeport, Springtown, Castleberry and Lake Worth.
Bridgeport coach Dayna Hudson said she is excited about the Bulls’ potential and the growth in the program.
“It’s starting to take shape. We should have a whole varsity and junior varsity,” Hudson said. “They’ve asked to start in July. I’m excited to see what the whole boys group can do.”
BATTLING FOR SPOTS
The Paradise Panthers captured the 9-2A title last year. The team will return several runners for new coach Cody Chandler as they try to improve a fifth-place finish at regionals last year.
“We’ve got several varsity returners and should have a chance to be successful,” Chandler said. “They’ve been up here asking when we were getting started. They are excited to get started.”
In the new 9-3A, Paradise will be challenged by Boyd. The Yellowjackets are led by senior Marco Martinez, a region qualifier in the 1600 and 3200.
Boyd coach Oscar Hernandez is looking for Martinez to make a run at state.
“All the success in track has him wanting to go out with a bang,” Hernandez said. “He wants to have a fun year and do well. If he works, there’s no reason why he can’t make it to state.”
The Yellowjackets also bring back Aaron and Cameron Hammett.
“They’ve been running all summer. It’s their senior years too,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said Martinez is working to recruit other athletes to help the team.
The Slidell Greyhounds will return several runners, including Khristian Talamantes. He finished 39th at regionals last year in 19:20.
The Northwest Texans will be young after last year’s senior leader Zack Kirkland graduated and headed to UNT.
“We’ll have a sophomore-heavy team,” said Northwest coach George Lutkenhaus.
Jacob Suchors is the anchor for the team. Suchors ran a 1:55 in the 800 last year at the area meet.
“He’s had a great summer and is in excellent shape,” Lutkenhaus said.
Sophomores Jared O’Conner and Alex Martinez will give the Texans a solid trio to contend for a top spot in District 5-6A.