El Paso’s best take on Region of Doom

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What: Region 1 Cross Country Championship.

When: Monday, Oct. 28. Times (MST):  3A Girls, 10 a.m.; 3A Boys, 10:30 a.m.; 4A Girls, 11 a.m.; 4A Boys, 11:30 a.m.; 5A Girls, Noon.; 5A Boys, 12:30 p.m.; 6A Girls, 1 p.m.; 6A Boys, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Mae Simmons Park, MLK Blvd. and 24th Street in Lubbock.

At Stake: Top four teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the UIL Cross Country State Championship, Nov. 9 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Hanks Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera, along with Eastwood, will do their best to return to the Class 5A Cross County State Championship.

The best of the best in Region 1 will converge on the South Plains of Texas on Monday for the annual qualifying round for the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock is where hundreds of high school runners from El Paso to Dallas will compete for the ultimate trip to Round Rock and a chance to race for a state title.

Region 1 – known around the state as the Region of Doom because of the amount of talented teams and individual harriers, is where many of those dreams are realized – or, in many cases – doomed.

Last fall, six teams enjoyed the experience of advancing to state – Americas’ boys in Class 6A, Burges’ boys and Eastwood’s boys and girls in Class 5A, San Elizario boys in Class 4A, and Tornillo’s boys in Class 3A.

Here is what’s in store for this year’s regional girl’s races:

The Franklin girls need a monster performance in order to qualify for a Class 6A state berth. The team is more than capable of performing well on Monday.

Class 6A

 Franklin, Coronado and Americas advanced, as did Socorro twins Jazmin and Janeth Chacon and Montwood’s Alexa Rangel and Karyme Garcia.

Last year, Franklin was ninth with 269 points, Americas 11th with 308 and Coronado was 12th with 331.

Franklin junior Eva Jess finished 8th last year in a time 17:46.05 and qualified to the state championship.

“If I have a really good meet, I could win it so that’s what I’m shooting for,” Jess said. “Of course I want to make it back to state and do good there, that’s the end goal, but regionals is the first step toward state.”

The team race will come down to traditional state powers Southlake Carroll, Coppell, Flower Mound and Keller.

However, the young and talented Franklin Cougars are prowling, watch for them to challenge Keller for the final spot to state out of Region 1.

For the Eastwood girls to be able to return to the UIL Class 5A Cross Country Championship, they will need help in the back end of the pack.

Class 5A

Eastwood, Jefferson, Eastlake, Canutillo, Del Valle and Burges will compete for state individual and team berths while Austin’s Mora Montes, Horizon’s Destiny Beltran and Andrea Villagomez and Angelina Lujan-Marrufo and Joselyn Heaven Perez from Parkland will compete as individuals.

Grapevine won the region last year followed by Amarillo and Eastwood was third. Watch for these three, along with Colleyville Heritage fight it out for positions.

“I expect really good competition,” said Lauren Walls-Portillo, a sophomore at Eastwood and defending District 1-5A champion. “It’s going to come down to who is stronger and who gives it their all. I’m expecting really strong runners including my teammates.”

It was the first time since 1988 a girl’s team from Eastwood competed at the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

Walls-Portillo is looking forward to another opportunity for the Troopers to advance to the state meet.

“We have a very high chance of making it to state because our team is much stronger this year,” she said. “We’ve seen what we can do after last year and we can do it again.”

Jefferson was fifth with 143 points – seven points shy of qualifying for state – Eastlake was ninth with 177 points, Burges was 13th (387 points) and Canutillo was 19th (517).

Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson, the two-time District 1-5A champ, was fifth at last year’s regional in 18:33.00) and advanced to state.

“Mentally, I need to be stronger and I need to have a positive mindset that I’m going to do great and I’m going to go back to state,” she said.

This time, she hopes to bring her team with her.

“This season, we’ve all been really close,” she said. “We’ve opened up more with each other and have bonded closer than ever. That really helps us on the course, because we don’t allow anyone to fall behind and if they do, we each know there’ll be someone there to pick them up.”

Mt. View girls
Mt. View’s Kayhla Talavera and Nicole Estrada finished 1-2 in the District 1-4A race.

Class 4A

 Mt. View, San Elizario and Clint will represent the county schools in Class 4A.

Last year, Mt. View senior Nicole Estrada finished the girls Class 4A regional 2-mile race in 12:41.90 and qualified for the UIL State Meet. San Elizario’s girls finished in 13th place.

Kayhla Talavera, a junior at Mt.View, won the District 1-4A championship, her first varsity win.

“I’m excited about going to regionals,” she said. “It’s going to be my first time so hopefully it turns out great. I have to run around 11:45 to get to state. I’ve run a 10:49 two-mile so it’s something I can do, it’s within my grasp.”

Class 3A

The Tornillo Coyotes are off to regionals for the first time in team history.

Tornillo placed three runners – Kylene Elias (first, 12:16.78), Olivia Garcia (second, 12:45.50) and Wendy Garcia (fifth,12:56.87) – in the top 5 at the District 1-3A championship where the team finished second.

Look for the freshman sensation Kylene Elias to advance to the state championship.


Here is what’s in store for this year’s regional boy’s races:

Coronado’s Nick Gonzales will look for a top 5 performance at regionals while the Americas boys are looking to to return to the state championship.

Class 6A

 Americas, Coronado and Franklin will represent El Paso again this year.

The Trailblazers finished fourth last year with 134 points, earning themselves the final spot to the state meet, the team’s first trip to state.

The team has three of the five scoring runners from that squad returning including Jacob Ye (22nd, 15:33.30), Jared Laverty (27th15:42.20) and Gage Garcia (45th, 16:00.50). Also back is Seth Andrade and Melo Corral. The newest addition is senior Hector Sanchez who was third at district in 16:08.19.

Coronado finished in eighth place with 255 points and Franklin was 10th with 278 points.

Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez was eighth at last year’s meet with a 15:12.10 which earned him a trip to state.

“I want to be in the top five at regionals,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. I know I have to get better rest this week and prepare better than I have been but it’s something that I know I can do.”

The boys team battle will be epic – which it is every year in this region.

Flower Mound has been the best team in Texas all year and should win the region, unless Southlake Carroll comes out and does something special, which they are very capable of.

The final two spots will come down to Coppell, Lewisville Marcus and Americas.

For the second year in a row, Dylan Espinoza will represent Bowie at the Region 1-5A Cross Country Meet.

Class 5A

Eastwood, Burges, Chapin, Horizon, El Paso and Hanks are off to regionals as are:  Jarrett Ketchmark, Andress; Dylan Espinoza, Bowie; Israel David, Eastlake; Miquel Avila, Del Valle and Evan Rubio, Ysleta.

The Troopers are the defending Region 1-5A at Class 5A state champions.

Eastwood easily won the meet placing it’s scoring runners in 4-6-7-8 and 15th place for 40 points. Burges also advanced with a fourth-place finish.

Eastwood returns three of the top five scoring runners including Juan Olmos (sixth, 15:35.50), Sergio Cuartas (seventh, 15:37.30) and Elias Perez (eighth, 15:39.90).

Grapevine, Aledo and Hanks – powered by seniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera and sophomore Gael Alvarado – will also be in contention.

“I want to win, of course and definitely run a good time,” said Abeyta the four-time District 2-5A champ.  “I’m shooting for a 14:38. I’m focusing on my team right now because they work so hard and I love them like brothers. The goal for me is to win state but as a team, I hope our team can qualify.”

Individually, Abeyta and Rivera finished 2-3 in 15:12.70 and 15:20.40 to advance. Eastlake sophomore Israel David finished 13th in 15:48.90 and Chapin senior Angel Contreras (18th, 15:57.50) also hope to return to state.

“Hopefully we can make it to state as a team,” said Contreras who won the District 1-5A crown. “I’m going to fight strong to make it as an individual but try even harder to help get my team there.”

As a team, Hanks finished sixth with 188 points and Chapin was ninth (260).

Chapin, Burges and El Paso High are the District 1-5A representatives to the Region 1-5A Meet in Lubbock.

Class 4A

San Elizario, Fabens, Clint and Joshua Gonzalez from Mt. View will travel to Lubbock on Monday.

San Elizario finished third with 87 points last year but junior Edwin Gomez defended his individual title in 15:17.90.

Andrews won the team title with 63 points, Canyon was second with 78 points, San Elizario third and Decatur fourth (117). These same four should do battle again.

“The team is ready to make another run at a state title,” Gomez said.

San Elizario

Class 3A

Tornillo, the four-time defending Region 3A champ, missed out on their fifth, finishing two points behind Boyd last year.

Tornillo finished second with 91 points.

Only five points separated the top three teams.

Senior Ofir Ortega was second overall in 16:04.70.