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Going the distance: Cross country teams begin trek – Decatur

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, August 4, 2018
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Working Together

WORKING TOGETHER – Decatur and Boyd cross country teams trained together on the hills of Eagle Summit Thursday morning. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Decatur coach David Park had high praise for his 2017 boys cross country team.

“When we were healthy, I thought we were the best team in the state,” Park said.

The Eagles won the District 9-4A meet and had four of the top 10 times. Triston Read finished third with a 16:33, and Alan Rangel took fourth with a 16:34. Gabe Embree and Sergio Sanchez took sixth and seventh.

At the 4A Region II meet a few weeks later, Decatur missed out on state by three points, finishing fifth with a 116. Cross-county rival Bridgeport qualified for state.

The Eagles beat the Bulls by 26 points at the district meet.

“Our boys [team] last year was probably one of my more painful memories,” Park said. “All year we would go and compete really well at 5A and 6A meets.”

In the days leading up to the regional meet, Rangel suffered a hip injury that sidelined him. Anthony Rodriguez also became ill and was forced to miss the race.

Missing two key runners, Decatur had one of its worst races of the season, with only two members of the team finishing in the top 25.

“We put way too much pressure on ourselves and we didn’t run well,” Park said. “We missed state by [three] points. It was painful. Not so much for me, but for the kids, because I knew how much work they had put in.”

As Decatur gears up for its 2018 season, the Eagles have redemption on their minds. Rangel, Charles Doubrava and Christian Isaac graduated, leaving Park with three spots on his roster to fill.

Read, Embree, and Rodriguez will all be back this season, as well as Matthew Ashmore and Oscar Palomo. Ashmore and Embree qualified for state last year as individuals, finishing 17th and 24th at the regional meet.

Palomo and Rodriguez will be the team’s two captains in 2018.

“We’ve got a couple of people that need to step in, but I think they will,” Park said. “We’ve got guys who are running really well right now. I like our chances. They are ready.”

Last November in Round Rock, the Decatur Lady Eagles took fifth in the 4A race with 167 points.

Led by seniors Taylor Butler and Elizabeth Culpepper, Decatur put an exclamation point on a memorable season. Now, the Lady Eagles are ready for more.

With four returning runners and the addition of senior Hanul Lewis, Decatur is confident and ready to get back on the course.

“There’s going to be a lot of competition for those seven spots,” Park said. “We’re going to have more depth this year than we’ve had in a long time.”

Decatur claimed the District 9-4A title last year with 28 points. Second-place Argyle finished with 61.

At the 4A Region II meet, the Lady Eagles took silver with 77 points.

Lewis, who is eligible to run varsity after sitting out the 2017 season due to UIL transfer rules, will be a key addition to the team. She competed at the Nike South Cross Country Invitational last year and won the girls time trial last August with a 12:32.

“She has a real love for the sport,” said Park of Lewis. “That just bleeds through every day.”

Park said last year at the district junior varsity meet, Lewis was so far ahead he was afraid other runners might get confused.

Lewis finished in 12:11.88 – over 90 seconds faster than second-place. Her time would have earned her second place at the varsity level.

“We had a concern the second-place person might run off course because [Lewis] just ran away and hid,” Park recalled. “I told them to go back and pick up second so she knows where she is going.”

Decatur officially started practice last Monday and will have its annual two-mile time trial Aug. 11. The Lady Eagles open the season Aug. 18 at the Little D Classic in Denton.

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