Going the distance: Cross country teams begin trek – Paradise

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, August 4, 2018
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When UIL re-alignment came in February, Paradise coach Ken Thompson knew his team’s district had just gotten tougher.

Along with Boyd, who claimed the 8-3A crown last year and went to state, Brock and Peaster were also added to District 7-3A.

Even though the Panthers finished second in 8-3A in 2017, Thompson knows nothing is guaranteed this year.

“I think it’s going to be tough to get out,” Thompson said. “Boyd has everyone back, and they went to state. Then you throw in Brock and Peaster, who both usually have good teams, and Jacksboro has a good, young team. I think our kids know it’s going to be tougher at district.”

Junior Matthew Eisen claimed bronze at the district meet last year with a 17:35, and Kobe Wakefield took ninth to help secure the Panthers’ second-place finish.

As a team, Paradise finished with 63 points and advanced to the regional meet.

At the 3A Region I race, Eisen qualified for state by finishing 11th with a 17:07. A few weeks later at state, Eisen finished 39th, clocking a 17:10.

The Panthers also return Justin Culp, Jacoby Isaacs and Cordell Scarlett.

Thompson said he expects that group to be his main five runners and hopes it stays that way.

“Last year we struggled to find a fifth runner,” Thompson said. “We had four pretty good ones and our fifth kind of varied. I think that was because we were young. Getting second in district really helped out and helped the [fifth, sixth and seventh] runners realize ‘I have to come on if we’re going to be good.'”

At the 3A Region I meet last year, the Paradise Lady Panthers had three runners in the top 25.

When Paradise opens the 2018 season Aug. 24 in Haltom City, only one of them will be on the course in a Lady Panther uniform.

Hannah Beth Pearson, who finished 18th at the regional meet, graduated in May. Maddie Mitschke took 24th at regionals, but will miss the cross country season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in a summer league basketball game in June.

“It will be a whole new [team],” said Paradise coach Karin Essig. “Everybody is going to have to step it up.”

Along with losing Pearson and Mitschke, Essig also lost two other members of last year’s team. Emerson Adams, who finished 130th at regionals, quit athletics and Rose Powers graduated.

The Lady Panthers will only have three returners from their 2017 campaign – Jana Messenger, Christy Sinclair and Kaycee Martin. Martin will be the lone senior on the team and was two spots shy of advancing to state last year.

She claimed silver at the District 8-3A meet.

“Kaycee was our first one at regionals last year,” Essig said. “I’m sure she’ll put it upon herself to [be a leader].”

Essig said even though there are plenty of question marks surrounding her team, she is confident Paradise will be competitive this year.

“These kids have been putting in some miles,” Essig said. “I think they’re going to find a way and I think they know it’s going to be a tough road.”

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