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.
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.
The Americas boys cross country team made school history earlier this month when they qualified for the UIL State Cross Country Championship.
Obviously the team was happy after finishing fourth in the Region 1-6A Championship, often referred to the Region of Dome because of the quality of teams that race there.
Happy to be there?
Most definitely, yes.
Are they content with just making an appearance?
Not even a little bit.
“The kids, the parents, the school, the whole Blazer community is real excited and proud of us for accomplishing something for the first time; everybody is riding high on that,” said Kenny Lucero, Americas’s head coach. “The guys enjoyed it the first few days but I reminded them that we aren’t done with this journey just yet.”
That journey has led the Trailblazers to Albuquerque, Lubbock (twice) and Round Rock where they ran the state course at Old Settler’s Park in late September.
“We ran the regional course (Mae Simmons Park) at the Lubbock Invitational which helped some of the young guys who had never run that course,” Lucero said. “It was great for the guys, especially for our freshmen Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral, to be familiar with the course before regionals.”
Senior Tyler Rodriguez has taken the lead the role, finishing 12th at regionals in 15:25.10 and third at the District 1-6A race in 16:21.83.
“We believe in ourselves; coach believes in us,” Rodriquez said. “Just by him changing our schedule so we could run at the state course at the McNeil Invitational showed us just how much he believed in us.”
Senior Alek Duran, juniors Jacob Ye and Seth Andrade and sophomore Gage Garcia complete the Blazer Seven.
“When we found out that we were going to go to state, there was a lot of excitement,” Rodriguez said. “But it has quieted down, now we’re back to being humble and focused.”
With the likes of state powers such as defending Class 6A state champion The Woodlands, Southlake Carroll, Humble Kingwood and Katy Tompkins, Americas does have its work cut out for them to reach the medal stand.
“There are a lot of Dallas schools there, a lot of Houston schools so it would be nice to get out there and earn a little respect for El Paso,” Lucero said.
Racing at the McNeil Invitational on the state course helped the team’s confidence heading into the championship season. Americas finished tied with Southlake Carroll with 284 points. Katy Tompkins was first with 211 points.
“We were feeling confident about possibly making it to state this year so we decided to go the McNeil Meet,” Lucero said. “There were 80 teams and 690 runners and the kids did well. Now, we’re going to line up with 152 runners so the guys will probably feel a lot more comfortable.”
Americas is keeping its first trip to state in perspective.
“It’s exciting that we qualified for the state meet but I want to make sure we approach it as just another meet,” Lucero said. “The kids feel that motivation, that incentive. They’ve been real loose but they’re working hard. We aren’t making a real big deal out of being there for the first time. We just want to have fun and make sure we run hard on race day. We have nothing to lose.”
Rodriguez knows what’s at stake.
“We’re the underdogs so we don’t have any pressure on us,” he said. “We know that but we’re going to go out there and compete just like it’s just another race, that’s all we can do.”