The Decatur Lady Eagles cross country team finished 2013 as the runner-up in Class 3A. It will begin 2014 as the third-ranked team in the new Class 4A.
The Lady Eagles were ranked third in the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas’ 4A preseason poll. Decatur was picked behind Liberty Hill and Kaufman.
Liberty Hill finished third last year in the 3A race at the state meet. Kaufman was fourth.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Decatur coach David Park about the rankings. “Preseason polls are respect polls. You take it for what it is. It’s a compliment of past performances. But it’s not an indicator or future success.”
Park said he agreed with Liberty Hill and Kaufman being ranked at the top with their strong returning casts. Liberty Hill brings back its entire top seven. Kaufman has five of its seven returning. Decatur returns five of its seven but lost its second-best runner, Haley Dennard, and fifth runner, Morgan Haney.
Decatur’s boys were unranked in the 4A poll after the graduation of state champion Taylor Clayton. Decatur finished eighth last year at state and graduated three of their top four.
“You don’t lose the top runner in the state and stay [in the rankings],” Park said.
The veteran coach said he’s nicknamed the boys team “The Who.”
“No one knows who our runners are,” Park joked.
The Decatur squads opened the season at the Friday Night Hawk Invite. The Eagles and Lady Eagles ran in the 6A races.
Park said he wanted to use the two-mile event to get some experience for his young teams.
“The first meet is organized chaos,” he said. “I just want the varsity boys and girls to run tight. The times are course-related. The course is slow at night because people run tentative.”
The Paradise Lady Panthers opened up fifth in the 3A poll. Eustace topped the rankings. Holliday, which shares 9-3A with Paradise, is ranked second. Jim Ned is third and East Bernard fourth.
“The kids are excited,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig about the rankings. “They know they have a lot of work to do.”
Paradise finished fifth in the old Class 2A last year.
The Alvord girls were ranked 10th in the first 2A poll.