SPORTS HEADLINES

Cross Country: Runners hit course for new year

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, July 29, 2017
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Summer Work

SUMMER WORK – Decatur’s Alan Rangle warms up before a recent workout at the Decatur High School track. Rangle finished 30th at state last fall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

One of longtime Decatur cross country coach David Park’s many sayings is “summer miles equal fall smiles.”

That may be especially true this fall with the championship portion of the season arriving sooner than ever. Many districts are holding their league championships in early October with regionals set for Oct. 23 and state Nov. 4.

Many area teams will be attending their first meet in mid-August.

“Everything is coming up earlier,” Park said. “Our kids have responded to it.”

After putting in miles over the summer, most area teams will start official workouts Monday. Here’s a brief look at the some of the county’s top returning teams.

DECATUR

The Decatur Eagles and Lady Eagles return the bulk of their top seven from last year’s 9-4A championship teams.

The Lady Eagles finished off last season with a sixth-place finish at the University Interscholastic League 4A championships. The girls squad brings back six of the seven girls at the state meet – Taylor Butler, Elizabeth Culpepper, Audri Baber, Makenzie Fox, Hadley Carter and Vanessa Sanders.

Park said the Lady Eagles have several young runners that could challenge for spots in the top seven.

“We have good depth with a lot of young girls coming along,” Park said. “Elizabeth and Taylor are rock solid as senior leaders.”

The boys return veteran runners Alan Rangle, Anthony Rodriguez, Triston Read, Oscar Palomo and Charlie Doubrava. Doubrava filled in for Parker Cullop at regionals last year and qualified for state as an individual along with Alan Rangle. Rangle finished 30th in 16:42.

Even with their experience, Park said they are not guaranteed a varsity spot with a deep and talented group of runners competing for a spot in the top seven.

“I can throw a blanket around 12 guys that are all together that could be in that seven,” Park said.

BRIDGEPORT

The trio of Salvador and Manuel Garcia and Eric Aguilar are set to return after a second straight trip to Round Rock.

Salvador Garcia took 37th at state, running a 16:50 in the 5K. Aguilar was 40th and Manuel Garcia 65th.

BOYD

The Boyd Yellowjackets finished second in 8-3A last year and then finished 10th at a tough 3A Region I meet in Lubbock.

After a strong spring on the track in spurring the Yellowjackets to an 8-3A title, they hope to take a big step this fall. Boyd returns all seven runners – Connor Richardson, Gauge Fahlin, Tristan LeMasters, Colton Lawson, Blake Rodgers, Manny Garcia and Lucas Loya.

“I’m super excited to coach these guys. All of our top seven are back, and they all ran track,” said Boyd coach Oscar Hernandez. “There was a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth because we should have ran better at regionals. We didn’t run well on the hills. We have to find a way to fight through it.”

Hernandez said the Yellowjackets have their sights set on knocking off Holliday to bring home a district title and earn a state spot.

Throughout the summer, Hernandez said he’s seen dedication from the group to accomplish those goals.

“I let them take ownership of their training,” the coach said. “They’ve been putting in the time.”

PARADISE

The Paradise Lady Panthers fell short in their bid for a fifth straight trip to state, taking eighth in the 3A Region I race.

Paradise will look to start a new streak of state trips this year with five of its seven runners returning – Kaycee Martin, Hannah Beth Pearson, Maddie Mitschke, Emerson Adams and Allyson Black.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how they all do,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig. “They’ve worked hard all summer.”

Martin finished 46th at regionals last year in 14:13 on the two-mile course.

The Paradise boys squad returns its top runner Matthew Eisen, who ran 18:43 in the 5K to finish 52nd at regionals last year.

ALVORD

The Bulldogs made school history last year, winning the program’s first district title, and came a spot away from advancing to state, finishing fifth at regionals.

The Bulldogs bring back 11-2A champion Colton Parker, William Martin and Matthew Edwards.

“We have a good core of young runners. We’ll have others to step us and compete again to round out our team,” said Alvord coach Aaron Tefertiller. “I look to make a good showing at district and hopefully claim a top four spot at reigonals.”

NORTHWEST

The Northwest Texans broke through last year to score a spot in the state field.

The Texans finished 12th in the 5A race.

The Texans will look to build on the success with three of their top five runners returning – Jacob Webster, Joseph Thomas and Carson Hughes.

Webster took 21st in the 5K in 16:21. As a freshman, Thomas was 56th in 16:52.

SLIDELL

The Slidell Greyhounds captured an eighth straight district title last year and will return their top seven runners in an attempt to for their ninth.

Along with state qualifier Hunter Horner, the Greyhounds have Ben McCasland, Carlos Gonzalez, Berto Hernandez, Noe Villareal and Ryan Smith back in the fold.

Brock Harwell, Brady and Easton Vanover will also challenge for spots in the top seven.

“We return seven runners with varsity experience, and six that have run at the regional meet,” said Slidell coach Casey Pierce. “With our new additions we will be deep and have the ability to compete for position not only at the meets but in practice every day.”

With the experience, the Greyhounds hope to take a big step and make it to state as a team. Slidell finished eighth last year at regionals.

“We have to get over the next hurdle,” Pierce said. “We have won district, we have qualified individuals for state, but we have not ran our best race as a team in the most important meet of the year, the regional meet. Until we do that we are just spinning our wheels in the same place.”

The Lady Greyhounds return their top four of their six region qualifiers from last year – Sam Rambsel, Sydney Keating, Bailey Meyer and Ashley Mayabb.

Rambsel ran a personal best of 13:46 last year as a freshman to finish third at district in the 3,200.

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