On Wednesday morning at Dinosaur Valley State Park, the best distance runners in 7-3A were on hand to find out what they were capable of with a cross country regional trip on the line.
“It’s always an honor to host the district meet,” said coach Rick Neill. “We work really hard on our invitational (meet) in September and then this meet a month later. It takes a lot of work, but we have a lot of help from the community, school staff and (athlete) parents.”
Coach Sherre Hill shared those sentiments.
“Anytime we put on a meet, I just appreciate so much the workers that we have,” she said.
The Lady Tigers finished fourth (69 points), behind Stephenville (41), Alvarado (45) and Hillsboro (60).
“The varsity girls’ division ended up being very tight,” said Hill. “We almost got our top five in the top 20, and normally it would’ve been good enough to get us out (to regionals), but not this time. Our times were great, but this was the most competitive meet I’ve been a part of here.”
Sophomore Makayla Kucera is headed back to regionals after her fifth-place finish among 32 runners.
“That’s a personal best for Makayla once again,” Hill said. “Her goal was to be in the top three and she didn’t quite make it, but we’ll definitely take fifth and I’m proud of her.”
Grace Payne really rose to the challenge with her best performance of the year by far to place 10th and seize the final regional qualifier spot.
“I don’t think Grace had run (under 14:00) before and she ran a 13:29,” Hill said. “She probably set a goal to be in the top 10 and she went out and did it. Grace has been so consistent in her first year to run. Her trip to regionals is well-deserved.”
Kucera and Payne will now prepare for their trip to the regional meet in Lubbock on Nov. 3.
Other varsity competitors included Miranda Metker (17th), Aubrey Starnes (19th), Shilah McFadin (21st), Claire Boswell (26th) and Madison Wooten (30th).
“Because our district is so tough, the gap in our team from 10th to 17th was just too great,” Hill said. “Hillsboro put a lot of runners in between our second and third. I know those girls are disappointed because their goal was to get to regionals, and I want them to be because it means they care. Hats off to Hillsboro and we have to get back to work for next year.”
The Tigers placed fifth with 116 points, behind Alvarado (18), Stephenville (42), Hillsboro (97) and Venus (97).
“The district is really strong from top to bottom,” Neill said. “Alvarado was able to dominate (Wednesday) and Stephenville is real solid. Hillsboro is a good program and Venus was right there with them, even after a couple of its best runners from last year moved away.”
Taylor Hansen brought his best effort of the year and finished 14th out of 32 runners.
“Taylor did a great job,” Neill said. “He ran in a 5k over the weekend and rested a couple of days, then ran his best time of the year. I’m real proud of him. Taylor is an outstanding young man, and for anything he does he’s going to put in a lot of effort.”
The next Tigers to cross the finish line were Lucas Gosling (20th) and Corbin Milton (25th).
“Lucas had a good day, and Corbin ran really well,” the coach said.
Other Tigers included Adam Talavera (28th), Jacob Pieper (29th) and Justin Beeson (31st).
“Adam had been out with a back injury lately, but he was able to compete (Wednesday),” Neill said. “He’s only a freshman, so he’s going to be a really good runner over the next three years. Chris Harrison has been sick and he was unable to complete the course, but I’m proud of him for trying and he’s going to be a real asset to the team in the future.”
Only two district schools fielded full teams, and Glen Rose (39) finished second to Stephenville (14). The top runners were McKenzie Morrison (7th) and Ashlyn Reynolds (8th) in a field of 16.
“McKenzie ran her best time ever, as I think most of our kids did,” Hill said. “Her knees are killing her, but she’s so competitive that she won’t give up. As she gains more experience and if we can get her past that knee pain, she could really be an asset to us in the next few years.
“Ashlyn has been running right there with McKenzie the whole time; they both got a late start with us (this season). Ashlyn showed a lot of promise in offseason (workouts) and she’s done an incredible job.
“She never complains and has been awesome. I appreciate her and McKenzie coming out late and helping us, because without them we wouldn’t have a JV team.”
Other JV runners were Samantha Willis (12th), Jena Brannon (13th), Elizabeth Gosling (15th) and Merae Talavera (16th).
The Tigers didn’t field a full team, but did have three runners in action among the field of 29. Nathan Burgess led the way in 17th place.
“Nate has all the tools to be a real good runner over the next three years,” Neill said of the freshman.
The other Tigers in action were Blake Kramer (21st) and Josh Beeson (25th).
“Those guys ran about like they had been running at recent meets,” Neill said. “Nate and Josh will both be back next year faster and stronger. Blake was out (competing) for the first time this year and he was a joy to have out here.”