Cross Country: Reaching New Heights

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017
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Reaching New Heights


Colton Parker. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

As a freshman last season, Colton Parker won the District 11-2A title in cross country.

But before his run at the Class 2A Region II race, Parker injured his back, derailing a chance at state. He finished 52nd in 20:22 at regionals.

“I was doing good, won district and then I got hurt,” Parker said. “I hurt my back right at regionals.”

Parker made up for last year at this year’s regional race. He finished 15th in 18:43 to earn his first trip to Round Rock.

The sophomore plans to run an aggressive race at state and hopes to contend for a medal.


Gabe Embree and Matthew Ashmore. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

After running all season with their teammates, Gabe Embree and Matthew Ashmore will step on the course Saturday to run as individuals for the first time.

The two Decatur runners will be on the course at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock for the 4A 5K finals at the University Interscholastic League cross country championships.

“It’s exciting but also surreal,” Embree said. “I can’t believe the season is already coming to an end.”

The pair qualified for state as individuals at the Region II meet. Ashmore finished 17th in 17:11 on the 5K course at Lynn Creek Park. Embree was 24th in 17:17, earning the final individual state berth.

“We’re ready to run,” Ashmore said. “We’re used to running as a team and working together. It will be different.”


Matthew Eisen. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

When Matthew Eisen was in eighth grade, he made the trip to Round Rock to watch his brother Joseph run in the University Interscholastic League cross country championships.

Saturday, the younger Eisen will get his chance to run in the state title race.

“He’s a lot of the reason I’m here,” Matthew Eisen said. “He really only spent a year training hard. I was in eighth grade then. I knew if I trained hard the whole time, I could make it.”

Eisen earned the spot by finishing 11th in the 3A Region I race in 17:07.

His goal Saturday is to try to get by Boyd’s Connor Richardson, who beat him in the 8-3A race and at regionals.

“I haven’t been able to run with him yet. I’m going to try to stick with him [Saturday],” Eisen said.


Carson Hughes and Jacob Webster. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Running at state last year with their team, Carson Hughes and Jacob Webster admitted they were a bit nervous hitting the Old Settlers Park course.

“It was my first time in a fast race with the best in the state,” recalled Hughes, who finished 111th in 17:11.

Saturday, he and Webster will be back in the 5A field to run at the University Interscholastic League championships.

Both expect the experience of last year to help them.

“I’ve been wanting this since last year,” Webster said. “It’s a chance to run with the fastest kids in the state and guys you’ve watched throughout the year.”

Webster and Hughes are coming off strong showings in the 5A Region I race. Webster took 11th in 15:37 and Hughes 15th in 15:43.

They have their sights set on breaking into the top 10 and getting a medal.


Marisol Fraga. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Following her 14th-place finish in the Class 4A Region II race, Marisol Fraga was in shock about qualifying for state.

More than a week later, the Bridgeport freshman is focused on competing with the top runners in Texas. She’s also starting to accept that she belongs in Saturday’s field.

“I know there will be a lot of good competition,” Fraga said.

“This shows me how much talent I have and how much better I can get.”

When she started running in sixth grade, Fraga knew she had found her sport.

“I knew I wanted to be a runner,” Fraga said.

At regionals, she turned in a season-best 12:16 in the 3,200-meter race. For her final race, she is hoping to break 12 minutes.

“If I put my heart into it, I can do it,” Fraga said.


Hunter Horner. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In his state debut as a sophomore last year, Hunter Horner ran a conservative first mile in the Class A race and tried to make up ground late.

The Slidell runner finished 53rd in 18:35.

Saturday in his return to the state cross country meet, Horner plans to be more aggressive from the starting gun.

“Last year, I waited back,” Horner said. “This year, I plan to pick it up a little earlier and give what I have left at the end.”

Horner, the 21-A champion, ran an 18:40 in the Class A Region III race to finish 16th.

Boyd Cross Country Team

Boyd Boys Cross Country. Messenger photo by Joe Duty


For the past year, the Boyd Yellowjackets’ goal has been to get past regionals and earn a spot in the state championship field.

Saturday, they will line up with the best teams in 3A to run in the University Interscholastic League championships at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

“It’s unreal,” said Boyd junior Tristan Lemasters.

For the Yellowjackets, reaching this goal is even more sweet after falling short of it at regionals last year. With their third-place finish in the 3A Region I race, they became the school’s first team to advance to state.

“It’s good to finally get over the hump,” said junior Connor Richardson. “Since our freshman year, we’ve all been together. To go through all the training together, it’s great to accomplish this as a team.”

Boyd is not satisfied with just being one of the 16 teams in the state field. The Yellowjackets hope to contend Saturday for a medal.

“If we run the best we can and PR, we have a good chance to be in the top four or five,” Lemasters said.

Gauge Fahlin insisted: “We’re not done yet.”

Decatur Girls Cross Country Team

Decatur Girls Cross country. Messenger photo by Joe Duty


After months of training, the Decatur Lady Eagles are admittedly ready for a break.

But before taking a hiatus on putting in daily miles, they will bid for a return to the medal stand Saturday in the 4A final at the University Interscholastic League cross country championships.

“We’re ready for it to come to a sweet end,” said Decatur senior Taylor Butler.

Elizabeth Culpepper added: “It’s been a long six months of training. We’re ready to go out and give it our all. There’s no regrets.”

The Decatur girls will be making their 14th straight state appearance. They finished sixth last year.

Four runners return from last year – Butler, Culpepper, Makenzie Fox and Audri Baber. They will be joined by senior Emily Boyd, Alexia Sellards and freshman Kayla Leal.

“This is what we’ve been working four years for,” Boyd said about running at state.

For Leal, the state trip is emotional because it allows her to run in the same race as her cousin Cynthia Carrillo.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Leal said.

The Lady Eagles believe they have a shot for the medal stand. Led by Butler’s 11:57 in the 4A Region II 3,200-meter race, the team’s top five runners broke 13 minutes.

“We do have a possible medal shot,” Butler said.

After the race, Sellards is looking forward to a tasty break.

“I’m ready to eat whatever I want,” she said.

Bridgeport Boyd Cross Country Team

Bridgeport Boys Cross Country. Messenger photo by Joe Duty


The year before Eric Aguilar, Nathaniel Phillips, Salvador and Manuel Garcia arrived in high school, Bridgeport didn’t field a varsity team in the district cross country meet.

Four years and four regional trips later, the four seniors are leading the first Bridgeport boys team state.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Aguilar said.

Salvador Garcia added: “We started at nothing and made it to state our senior year.”

The Garcias and Aguilar will be running at state for a third time after qualifying as individuals as sophomores and juniors. Going with the entire team is even more special.

They have tried to prepare their teammates making their state debut.

“You have to expect the unexpected,” said Manuel Garcia, who recalled running in the mud as a sophomore.

Phillips will get his first chance to run at state in his last high school race.

“I wish I could go back and do the whole thing over again,” he said.

The Bulls finished fourth in the Region II 4A race. The Garcias earned top-10 finishes.

The Bulls hope to make a run at the one of the top spots Saturday.

“We want to make a statement,” Phillips said.


UIL Cross Country Championships
At Old Settlers Park, Round Rock


9:10 A.M. – 5A BOYS

Northwest: Jacob Webster, Carson Hughes

11:40 A.M. – 1A BOYS

Slidell: Hunter Horner

12:50 P.M. – 2A BOYS

Alvord: Colton Parker

2 P.M. – 3A BOYS

Boyd: Gauge Fahlin, Manny Garcia, Tristan Lemasters, Colton Lawson, Lucas Loya, Connor Richardson, Blake Rodgers

Paradise: Matthew Eisen

2:40 P.M. – 4A GIRLS

Bridgeport: Marisol Fraga

Decatur: Audri Baber, Emily Boyd, Taylor Butler, Elizabeth Culpepper, Makenzie Fox, Kayla Leal, Alexia Sellards

3:10 P.M. – 4A BOYS

Bridgeport: Eric Aguilar, Rigo Alvarez, Jose Huerta, Nathaniel Phillips, Manuel Garcia, Salvador Garcia

Decatur: Matthew Ashmore, Gabe Embree

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