By Richard Greene
The Decatur Lady Eagles are the best Class 3A cross country team in Texas again.
Decatur claimed its second straight state title and its third since 2005 with a dominating 73-point victory at the University Interscholastic League cross country championships at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock Saturday. Decatur finished with 57 points. Lucas Lovejoy and Argyle tied for second with 130 points.
“I want you guys to know how difficult it is to repeat,” said Decatur coach David Park. “It’s a credit to these ladies. Through the flu, floods and fog, they were there every morning to work.
“The word this week was to finish,” Park added. “I’m so proud of them.”
When the team was awarded the trophy, Park raised it above his head and then waved it around in celebration. It was his third title and a special one to him.
“All are special, but this one is special because the girls were constantly fighting back,” he said.
The victory sent seniors Rebecca Roose and Sutton Young out with a state title in their final race. Roose finished 68th in 13:09 on the two-mile course. Young was 102nd in 14:38.
“It’s amazing to be back-to-back state champions,” Young said. “It’s an awesome feeling; a happy fuzzy feeling.”
The other five members of the Decatur team, including medalists Hanna Galloway and Natalie Neighbors, are underclassmen.
“All I could think was do it for the seniors,” said the sophomore Neighbors, who took 10th in 12:11. “If it wouldn’t have been for them, I wouldn’t have pushed it the way I did.”
Galloway, who won the Region I race last week, led Decatur, finishing seventh in 12:06. Galloway was running ninth with about 600 meters left. Her teammates Neighbors and Zuleima Palamo caught up with her at that point. She then found an extra push to pass two runners in the final stretch to move up the medal stand.
“i decided to take off to get in the top 10,” Galloway said. “I knew [Neighbors and Palamo] would follow me.”
Palamo finished 11th just off the medal stand in 12:14.
After the top three finished, Decatur needed to more runners to cross the finish line to clinch the title. Bianca Morrison took 26th in 12:27. Veronica Torres came across the finish line in 47th place in 12:48 as Decatur’s fifth runner.
“You can’t discount what Veronica did,” Park said. “She ran better than she did all year. She found an extra gear today.”
On a seasonably warm day with the wind whipping on the hilly course, Park said the team followed the strategy he wanted.
“Our whole thing was to let Colbea [Harris] go and run her race, and then we’d take it across the pond,” Park said. “That’s what we did.”
Harris of Argyle won the race in 11:34, finishing 12 seconds in front of Taeler Marshall of Huffman Hargrove.