Tornillo hopes to rebound with strong state performance

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Cathedral boys.

Sunday: Tornillo boys.

Monday: San Elizario boys.

Tuesday: Burges boys.

Wednesday: Eastwood boys and girls.

Thursday: Americas boys.

Friday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Coronado, senior Liam Walsh, junior Nick Gonzalez and senior Jennelle Jaeger-Daraksy; Franklin senior Jacobo Wedemeyer and Franklin sophomore Eva Jess. Class 5A – Hanks juniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera; Eastlake’s freshman Israel David and seniors Carlos Armendariz, Aeriel Garcia and Amaris Chavez; Chapin junior Angel Contreras; Andress senior Chauncey Wilkes and Jefferson freshman Crystal Peterson. Class 4A – Mt. View junior Nicole Estrada.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Saturday Nov. 3. All times (CST): Girls Class 6A, 8:30 a.m.; Boys Class 6A, 9:10 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 12:10 p.m.; Girls Class 4A, 1:20 p.m.; Boys Class 4A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 3:10 p.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

Tornillo is headed back to state for the ninth time in 10 years. They are looking to improve on their back-to-back silver medal performances.

Tornillo’s quest for five consecutive Region 1-3A championship came to an abrupt end last week.

And that could be a good thing heading into this week’s UIL State Cross Country Championship.

“It’s not a good feeling giving away that streak of regional championships that we’ve worked so hard for,” coach Jesse Garcia said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s hard to accept second place. Maybe those kids wanted it a little bit more than we did.”

Tornillo had a run of four straight team and individual championships. Both ended as Boyd’s fifth runner Noah Richardson out leaned Tornillo’s fifth guy Heriberto Amaya at the finish line. Boyd won it with 89 points followed by Tornillo with 91 and Crane with 94 points.

Tornillo’s junior Ofir Ortega was second overall in 16:04.70. Dimmitt senior Jace Sanchez was the region champion in 15:58.70.

“Sure, we lost the streak but I would rather be humbled at regionals than have it happen to us at state,” Garcia said.

The team – Ortega, seniors Amaya, Eduardo Carrillo and Tommy Montelongo; sophomores Bryan Garcia and Michael Maney and freshman Raymundo Feliz – are looking to rebound at the state meet.

“I knew it was going to be a fight, I knew Boyd was going to come after us and they did,” Garcia said. “The main message I had for the guys is we are not going to be scared of being in a fight. We’re going to come back hungrier for that next race. It doesn’t matter who is going to be on that line, Boyd or any other school, we are we’re going to take it to them. We’re going to do our best.”

If anything, the regional race showed the Coyotes the importance of the four, five, six and seven runners.

Tornillo junior Ofir Ortega hopes to have a top 10 state performance. Last year he was 19th in 16:45.79.

“Every runner matters,” said Maney. “I now know the importance that every single teammate has on the eventual score. To get where we want to be, we all have to come together and win it as a group.”

In his first season of cross country, Maney has been the consistent fourth or fifth runner for Tornillo.

He finished 32nd overall (17:44.60) and fourth on the team at regionals.

Maney said being upset at regionals, will motivate his team.

“Over the past four years the seniors have won regionals and have made it to state so getting second place was a wakeup call for us. It’s something that’s going to give us that little extra drive to win state and try to get another medal.”

The focus is now firmly on the state meet where Tornillo will try to unseat Luling who have won eight straight Class 3A championships.

“I don’t think state is going to be a low scoring affair,” Garcia said. “There isn’t just one team that’s going to dominate. The top four teams could easily end up in first or fourth place, that’s how close it’s going to be. I see a 20-point difference between first to fifth place.”

Tornillo senior Eduardo Carrillo needs to run a solid race in order for the Coyotes to medal at state. Carrillo ran a 16:19.52 at last year’s state meet, good for 11th place.

Despite the disappointing regional finish, Garcia is encouraged by his team.

“I saw the guys fight like they never have before,” he said. “That tells me that we’re mentally prepared for whatever is going to happen. Last year we had guys who were more prepared and seasoned but somehow, against all odds, I have a strange feeling about this group of boys.”

Garcia remains confident that the Coyotes can get back to the state medal stand where they have finished with silver medals the past two years.

“We are on the brink,” he said. “If they just follow the vision and they stick with one another, they are going to surprise a lot of people at the end of that race.”