On this blog you will find weekly profiles on runners of all levels and ages, top 10 high school cross country boys and girls teams along with the top 25 times. You will be able to find schedules and results for high school cross country and track, the USA Track & Field Border Association meets and the many road races in El Paso.
Three El Paso cross country student-athletes have a lot to be thankful for this season as each one made their commitments to compete at the next level in the early signing period.
Michael Abeyta signed with the University of Oregon, Nick Gonzalez with St. Edwards and Seth Andrade signed with UT-Tyler.
A star at Hanks, Abeyta fulfilled a childhood goal of competing for the Ducks.
“Since I was 10 years old, I’ve always dreamed about going to the University of Oregon,” he said. “People in middle school would always tell me ‘you’re never going to get there, they won’t recruit you, they don’t take people from Texas, much less El Paso.’”
Abeyta’s resume is impressive.
He won two UIL State Cross Country silver medals – his sophomore and senior years – was sixth is freshman and fifth his junior year, and was All State all four years.
This year’s Region 1-5A time of 14:35.10 was the fastest regional time in El Paso history.
He has also won two state gold medals – in the 1600 meters (2017) and in the 800 meters (2018), a silver in the 1600 (2018) and a bronze in the 1600 (2019).
“People thought I was crazy, but I proved them wrong,” he said. “Now that it’s a reality, I am so blessed to be able to run there. I hope to make Hanks and El Paso proud.”
He picked Oregon over Oklahoma State University, Texas, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Georgetown.
Hanks coach Kim Gomez said Abeyta is the best athlete she has ever coached.
“He came to me already a great runner, his dad has done amazing things with him since he was a little boy,” she said. “I’ve coached 36 years and I’ve seen the Culpeppers, Gilbert Contreras, the Luceros, and I think Michael is the best distance runner ever in El Paso.”
Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez picked St. Edwards, a Division 2 school in Concordia, Texas.
“The big pull for me was that I wanted to run at a program that I felt that I could grow in,” he said. “With coach (Ryan) Ponsonby and coach (Sharlie) Brooks, I thought that I could really grow under their coaching.”
He was also looking for school where he could excel academically.
“Academics are a huge deal for me and I feel that at St. Edwards I’ll have the best opportunities to grow as a student,” he said. “Eventually, I want to go to medical school and St. Edwards will prepare me for that.”
He also took a visit to Division 1 Incarnate Word before deciding on St. Edwards.
“I put my running to the side and based my decision on how good the school was academically,” he said. “I wanted to be the first in my family to run at a Division 1 school, which is one of the reasons I was looking hard at Incarnate Word. But I decided that it’s not really running I want to pursue after college, its education and that’s why I chose St. Edwards.”
Seth Andrade, a senior at Americas, was also looking for a school that was strong academically.
“I was primarily looking for a good engineering school,” he said. “I had been e-mailing coaches at schools that had good engineering programs. I started with the Colorado School of Mines but the coach didn’t respond.”
He eventually e-mailed the coach at UT-Tyler and a trip was immediately set up.
“When I went on my visit, it was really beautiful and the environment felt right,” he said. “The coach is young but I could tell by the way he speaks and how he presented himself that he was very knowledgeable and has accomplished many things.”
While on the visit, Andrade trained with the team.
“It was a really fun experience,” he said. “They each had their own personalities. They were really great. Everything that they showed me was a check on my checklist of things I wanted in a school.”
What:Nike South Regional. Teams from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi will compete for an opportunity to race for a national championship. The boys from Americas, Eastwood and San Elizario, and the Franklin girls, will compete in the Championship Division.
When: Saturday, Nov. 23. Boys championship at 1 p.m.; Girls championship at 1:30 p.m.
Where:Bear Branch Park in The Woodlands.
At stake:The top two teams in the region receive automatic bids. The top five placing individuals not on an automatically-placing team will advance as individual qualifiers. Individuals and club qualifiers from eight regional championships are invited to NXN on Dec. 7 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.
The championship season for 2019 is almost over for many of the nation’s top high school cross country programs.
On Saturday, the best teams in five states will race at the Nike South Regional at Bear Branch Park in The Woodlands.
Teams from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi will compete for an opportunity to race for a national championship – Nike Cross Nationals (NXN).
Three boys teams – Americas, Eastwood and San Elizario – and the Franklin girls, will compete in the Championship Division with a NXN berth at stake.
Many consider NXN, which is Dec. 7 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon, as the ultimate cross country experience.
“I don’t think anybody who hasn’t experienced NXN can ever imagine what happens at NXN,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain. “I talked to someone who qualified for the Olympics and this person had never seen NXN. I was describing to him what NXN is, showing him pictures and videos of it. I asked him if it was an experience only someone who made the NCAA Championship would go through and he said, ‘oh no, the NCAA can’t compete with what NXN does.’”
Last year, Eastwood Running Club became the first team from El Paso to win Nike South and advance to NXN.
Eastwood scored 121 points, Southlake Carroll was second with 137 points and Flower Mound was third with 142 points.
And just like in 2018, the path is hauntingly familiar.
Like last year, Eastwood won Region 1, the UIL 5A state championship and now enter Saturday’s meet peaking at the right time.
“Nike South is always on our schedule, no matter what.” McLain said. “It doesn’t matter if we have a strong season or not, we go there.”
McLain said Nike South is a great way to measure the Eastwood program against the best in Texas.
“In order to compete against Southlake Carroll and The Woodlands, you have to respect them,” he said. “Too often, when a team beats you, coaches will say it’s because you cheat or it’s because you recruit – they make up excuses.
We don’t do that. We go up there and if a team beats us, they beat us because they outworked us. You have to respect them for doing that and that should motivate you to work just as hard as they do.”
This is the ninth year in row that Eastwood will participate in Nike South. It’s best results were a pair of fourth place finishes in 2012 and 2016, a third place finish in 2017 and finally breaking through with a Nike South Championship in 2018.
In a season that started a bit slow for Eastwood, the team put it all together at the UIL Cross Country State Championship at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock two weeks ago.
The Troopers defended its Class 5A UIL State title in convincing fashion scoring 51 points, 59 fewer than state runner-up Grapevine.
Eastwood seniors Juan Olmos (fifth, 15:01.41) and Elias Perez (sixth, 15:03.46) had top 10 finishes. All scoring runners – junior Sergio Cuartas (17th, 15:28.21), junior Nathan Hernandez (20th, 15:31.10) and junior Victor Parra (21st, 15:31.12) – finished in the top 25.
Eastwood’s average time of 15:19.06– with a 29 second split – was the fastest of all classifications, including Class 6A state champ Southlake Carroll’s 15:22.18.
“In the beginning of the season, we weren’t where we would have liked andall of us were wondering if we would ever get there,” Perez said. “I knew what we were capable of and I believed in every one of them. The young guys panicked a little and they would ask me if we could make it to NXN again? I told them I believed in them and that we could. After state, we definitely have a shot, and do better than we did last year.”
The team finished 22nd in a field 22 teams in its first national championship.
San Elizario junior Edwin Gomez, who was second in the UIL State Championship Class 4A race, is focusing on Nike South from a more personal level.
“I had an up-and-down cross country season,” he said. “All season, I was running for the team. I’ve been training really hard since the season ended and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back to Nike Nationals.”
Last year he placed fifth at Nike South in 15:45.38, and was 84th at NXN in 16:05.9.
Gomez, who lead San Elizario to a team silver medal, was the second El Paso area athlete to advance to NXN.Eastwood alum and current Furman University runner Daniel Bernal was the first in 2015 and 2016.
Bernal was also the first El Paso runner to be recognized as NXN All American when he finished 10th in 2016 in a time of 15:47.3.
Americas senior Seth Andrade said his team is excited about its first appearance at the NXN South Regional.
“We wanted to place at state but our legs felt a little heavy and things didn’t work out like we wanted,” Andrade said. “We’re hoping Nike South turns out a little better. We are all excited to go out there and kick some butt.”
Americas placed sixth in the Class 6A race.
The opportunity is there for the taking. Four El Paso powerhouses – Franklin’s girls and the boys from Americas, Eastwood and San Elizario – all fighting for the ultimate prize – a trip to NXN.
“What Nike does for these kids is absolutely amazing,” McLain said. “Until you’ve been there, you could never image what it’s like. It’s a lot to take in. Nothing really compares for it. NXN has changed our sport. NXN changed Eastwood cross country.”
El Paso Running will utilize a point system to highlight El Paso’s top boy’s cross country runners.
The system is as follows: In a race of less than 150 runners, first place gets 10 points, second gets 9 points all the way down to and 10th place which gets 1 point. For meets with between 150 to 300 runners, double points will be rewarded meaning 20 points for first, 19 for second all the way down to 1 point for 20th. For every additional 150 runners, another 10 runners will be included in the points.
For those who like raw times, we also list the Top 25 boys and girls race times and the meets and dates that they occurred.
1, Eastwood: The Troopers defended its Class 5A UIL State title in convincing fashion scoring 51 points, 59 fewer than state runner-up Grapevine. Eastwood seniors Juan Olmos (fifth, 15:01.41) and Elias Perez (sixth, 15:03.46) had top 10 finishes. All scoring runners – junior Sergio Cuartas (17th, 15:28.21), junior Nathan Hernandez (20th, 15:31.10) and junior Victor Parra (21st, 15:31.12) – finished in the top 25. Eastwood’s average time of 15:19.06 was the fastest of all classifications, including Class 6A state champ Southlake Carroll’s 15:22.18.
2, Americas: At its second consecutive state championship, Americas improved from last year’s 15th place finish to sixth in Class 6A. The Trailblazers placed two runners – senior Hector Sanchez (17th, 15:15.36) and sophomore Jared Laverty (25th, 15:21.72) – in the top 25. Americas average time was 15:38.90.
3, San Elizario: The Eagles move up one after finding themselves on the Class 4A podium for the sixth straight time, finishing state runner-up to Decatur by three points. Junior Edwin Gomez was second overall in 15:06.05. Senior Rene Arambula was 11th in 15:47.50 and junior Dilan Sanchez was 12th in 15:51.22. San Elizario’s average time was 16:03.32.
4, Hanks: The Knights move up one after its fourth-place finish in the Class 5A state race. Hanks finished with 84 points after strong performances from seniors Michael Abeyta who was second in 14:35.10 and Rodger Rivera who was third in 14:51.30. Their average time was 15:41.17.
5, Franklin: The Cougars finished its team season at the Region 1-6A race with a sixth-place finish. Senior Fernie Morales advanced to the Class 6A state championship and had a top 20 performance, placing 18th in 15:16.52.
6, Coronado: The T-Birds ended its season with a ninth-place finish at the Region 1-6A race. Senior Nick Gonzalez raced in his second state championship and was the first El Paso runner in Class 6A. He finished 14th in 15:11.31.
7, Tornillo: Tornillo ended its season with a bronze medal at the Class 3A state championship. Senior Ofir Ortega earned All State honors, finishing in eighth place in 16:03.31. The Coyotes average time was 16:43.92.
8, Burges: The Mustangs finished seventh in the Region 1-5A Class 5A race to end their season.
9, Chapin: The Huskies finished 12th as a team in the Class 5A race. Senior Angel Contreras advanced to the state championship and was 23rd in 15:33.98.
10, Horizon: The Scorpions finished the season as the 15th best team in Region 1-5A.
Dropped out: None. On the verge: None.
Top times (3-mile or 5K)
1, Elias Perez, Eastwood 14:25.90 (Woodbridge Classic, 9/21).
2, Michael Abeyta, Hanks, 14:34.61 (Old Settlers Park, 11/9).
3, Rodger Rivera, Hanks, 14:51.30 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
4, Sergio Leon Cuartas, Eastwood, 14:51.40 (Woodbridge Classic, 9/21).
5, Juan Olmos, Eastwood, 14:51.90 (Woodbridge Classic, 9/21).
6, Edwin Gomez, San Elizario, 14:53.50 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
7, Nick Gonzalez, Coronado, 14:58.20 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
8, Jacob Ye, Americas, 14:58.40 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
9, Isreal David, Eastlake, 14:59.10 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
10, Hector Sanchez, Americas, 15:05.60 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
11, Nathan Hernandez, Eastwood, 15:12.60 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
12, Victor Parra, Eastwood, 15:22.40 (Woodbridge Classic, 9/21).
13, Jared Laverty, Americas, 15:22.50 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
14, Fernie Morales, Franklin, 15:23.40 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
15, Angel Contreras, Chapin, 15:29.51 (Northeast Regional Park, 9/21).
16, Aaron Saenz, Americas, 15:32.60 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
17, Daniel Kennedy, Franklin, 15:35.20 (Northeast Regional Park, 9/21).
18, Alan Alba, Coronado 15:35.77 (Northeast Regional Park, 9/21).
19, Seth Andrade, Americas, 15:37.80 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
20, Gage Garcia, Americas, 15:44.35 (Northeast Regional Park, 9/21).
El Paso Running will utilize a point system to highlight El Paso’s top girls cross country runners.
The system is as follows: In a race of less than 150 runners, first place gets 10 points, second gets 9 points all the way down to 10th place which gets 1 point. For meets with between 150 to 300 runners, double points will be rewarded meaning 20 points for first, 19 for second all the way down to 1 point for 20th. For every additional 150 runners, another 10 runners will be included in the points.
For those who like raw times, we also list the Top 25 girls race times and the meets and dates that they occurred.
1, Franklin: The Cougars were the only girl’s team from El Paso to race at the UIL State Cross Country Championship. Junior Eva Jess finished with a silver medal in Class 6A finishing in 17:12.18. The team finished in 15th place.
2, Eastwood: Sophomore Lauren Walls-Portillo was the top finisher from Class 5A at the UIL State Cross Country Championship, finishing 46th in 19:01.29.
3, Jefferson: A pair of Jefferson runners – junior Melody Tsuitsumi (81st in 19:25.02 and sophomore Crystal Peterson (97th in 19:42.03) made state appearances.
4, Americas: Senior Mariana Guzman had a top 20 finish at the Class 6A UIL State Cross Country Championship placing 20th in 18:21.05.
5, Coronado: Freshman Kyra Walker was 118th in 19:56.25 in her first state championship.
6, Burges: The Mustangs ended its season with an eighth-place finish at the Region 1-5A race.
7, Eastlake: The Falcons finished 12th in the Region 1-5A championship.
8, Montwood. Junior Karyme Garcia was 99th in 19:28.96 the Class 6A state meet.
9, Canutillo: The Eagles finished 16th at the Region 1-5A meet.
10, Tornillo. Freshman Kylene won the bronze medal at the Class 3A state championship running the two-mile race in 11:37.79.
Dropped out: None.
On the brink: None.
Top times (3 mile or 5K)
1, Eva Jess, Franklin, 16:56.80 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
2, Mariana Guzman, Americas, 18:14.40 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
3, Karyme Garcia, Montwood, 18:16.20 (Mae Simmons Park, 10/28).
The El Paso delegation of distance runners who descended upon Old Settlers Park in Round Rock for the UIL Cross Country State Championship last week certainly left an impression on the rest of Texas.
Three of the six teams returned home with state team medals and eight athletes earnedAll State honors by virtue of finishing in the top 10 in their respective races.
The Eastwood Troopers won back-to-back Class 5A state championships, San Elizario was second in Class 4A and Tornillo was third in Class 3A.
Five of the top 10 runners out of Class 5A were from El Paso including Hanks seniors Michael Abyeta (second, 14:34.61) and Rodger Rivera (third, 14:55.64) Eastwood seniors Juan Olmos (fifth, 15:01.41) and Elias Perez (sixth, 15:03.46) and Eastlake sophomore Israel David was seventh in 15:05.63. San Elizario junior Edwin Gomez was second in the Class 4A race finishing in 15:06.05 and Tornillo senior Ofir Ortega was eighth in Class 3A in 16:03.31.
Only two girls finished in the top 10 – Franklin junior Eva Jess was second in Class 6A in 17:12.18 and Tornillo freshman Kylene Elias was third in the Class 3A two-mile race in 11:37.79.
“It felt harder this year,” Eastwood coach Mike McLain said. “People take these things for granted. Doing something like this is difficult. I told the guys they needed to enjoy it because moments like this don’t come around too often.”
Eastwood won its second state championship by 59 points, scoring 51 points. Grapevine was second with 110, Boerne Champion was third with 128 points and Hanks was fourth with 151 points.
“This one had a very different feeling,” McLain said. “It was just as satisfying but in a very different way because of everything they had to overcome to get here. We lost two big guns from last year who were our leaders. We had some health issues with one of our top runners that would have decimated a lot of other teams. That runner, and the rest of the team, pulled together and made the most out of it.”
After Olmos and Perez, Eastwood’s next five were junior Sergio Cuartas (17th, 15:28.21), junior Nathan Hernandez (20th, 15:31.10) junior Victor Parra (21st, 15:31.12) sophomoreVictor Anchondo (107th, 16:48.43) and sophomore Andres Gurrola (139th, 17:26.53).
“It’s a great feeling going back to back,” Olmos said. “It was a good feeling to be able to share this with Elias, it was a perfect way to end our senior year.”
Perez and Olmos took over the leadership role for the Troopers this year.
“We had a lot of younger guys on this year’s team and we weren’t really doing too good in the beginning,” he said. “But we knew what we were capable of and it was awesome for all of us to come together at that moment.”
Perez said there were many twists and turns this season.
“At the beginning of the season, we were doing good but when we raced at Woodbridge, that’s when people started to get hurt. Desert Twilight was kind of bad, too. Runners who where usually up there with us were getting hurt and we weren’t at our full strength.”
But Perez knew this team would come around.
“We knew what we were capable of, but we had to stick with it, stick with the process,” he said. “We were lost at some point and getting in our own heads and we weren’t performing like we usually do. We talked to each other, we knew what we needed to do but we couldn’t stress over it. We had to keep working and get past it.”
For Hanks, after Abyeta’s second place finish and Rivera’s third place finish, Knights runners were sophomore Gael Alvarado (74th, 16:15.24), senior Omar Munoz (76th, 16:16.93) freshman Alejandro Tarin (85th, 16:23.43), junior Christian Jaquez, (144th, 17:44.91) and juniorMichael Antuna (152nd, 19:18.47).
Chapin senior Angel Contreras was 23rd in 15:33.98.
Eastwood sophomore Lauren Walls-Portillo was the top girl from Class 5A finishing 46th in 19:01.29. A pair of Jefferson runners – junior Melody Tsuitsumi was 81st in 19:25.02 and sophomore Crystal Peterson was 97th in 19:42.03.
San Elizario found itself on the podium for sixth straight time, finishing state runner-up to Decatur by three points.
“It’s a bitter sweet feeling,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales said. “I’m not taking anything away from Decatur, they’re a great team and they improved a lot but we could have done a lot better. We had a young team and we made a couple of mistakes, so it cost us a little bit.”
After four straight state championships, the Eagles won bronze last year and now add a silver to its ever expanding trophy case.
“We could have done better but I’m happy because of the team’s improvement over the entire season,” he said. “We improved our average by 30 seconds from the last time we were state champions and we improved by 34 seconds average time from last year.”
But to finish three points shy of five state championships in six years, it stings just a little bit.
“I just wanted a little better result because the kids worked so hard this season,” Morales said. “We wanted a state championship, we were expecting one but looking at the year in its entirety, we improved a lot. I don’t know if there are any other teams in El Paso that have been on the podium six years in a row. But we have to keep working and taking it one year at a time.”
After Gomez’s second place finish, senior Rene Arambula was 11th in 15:47.50, junior Dilan Sanchez was 12th in 15:51.22, sophomore Irvin Vazquez was 56th (16:38.27), junior Anthony Gonzalez was 79th (16:53.56), senior Seth Rodriguez was 92nd (17:03.52) and sophomore Alan Ceballos was 103rd (17:15.51).
Mt. View junior Joshua Gonzalez was 78th in 16:52.55.
“We’ll have to reflect and evaluate what we did as a team and come back and get hungry again,” Morales said. “We’ll have lot of young kids on the JV team fighting for a spot on varsity.”
Mt. View senior Nicole Estrada had the best finish among El Paso’s 4A girls finishing the two-mile race in 37th place in 12:28.27. Mt. View junior Kayhla Talavera was 65th (12:47.25) and San Elizario junior Karina Gallegos was 109th in 13:20.09.
For Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia, there was added meaning to this year’s state championship.
His father, Eleazar Garcia, past away on Dec. 31, 2018.
“When I went back after the Christmas break, my kids found out,” he said. “I told them we were going back to the state championship and run it for my dad. Every race was for my dad. At thestate championship, we all knew that my dad was watching from up there cheering them on. It was a proud moment.”
The Coyotes finished third with with 121 points. Eustace won state with 85 points followed by Crane with 112.
It was a bronze kind of day for Tornillo at this year’s state meet.
“Every kid we took up there came back with a third place medal,” Garcia said. “We put on a show. We were leading the race after the first mile. Eustace, the state champs from last year, had lost one from that group so they had a solid squad and Crane, which finished second last year, had everyone coming back so I knew it was going to be a hard battle.”
Garcia said he washappy with the way the team improved every week.
“I am real appreciative of the overall performance of the kids,” he said. “Every week we got stronger and Saturday was no different. Our best race of the season was Saturday.”
Ortega led the team with an All-State eighth place performance followed by junior Bryan Garcia (33rd, 16:43.75), freshman Angel Torres (37th, 16:49.39), sophomore Bryan Guzman (42nd, 16:56.74), junior Michael Maney (53rd, 17:06.42) and freshman Eric Fuentes (149th, 22:10.57).
“Finishing in the top 10 was my goal,” Ortega said. “I was little bit disappointed because I wanted to finish in the top three but I’m still glad I finished on the podium for the first time individually. Team wise, the guys stepped up big and because of them, we finished in the top three. I did my part, but they ran their heart out and did something really special.”
Ortega said he enjoyed his four years at the Cotton Valley school.
“Running for Tornillo has been a wonderful experience,” he said. “I will cherish all the memories I have from my freshman year to my senior year. The team-bonding, the family-bonding, was very special. I have much love for my coaches, it’s something I’ll never forget. They werelike my second dads. It’s been a special journey.”
Freshman Kylene Elias is just starting hers at Tornillo. She won the school’s first girl’s state medal, finishing third by just one second to state runner upFinley Hunting from San Antonio Cole. Peyton Muntz from Whitesboro won thegold in 11:28.06.
“It’s a good feeling but I think I could have done better,” Elias said. “Next year I’ll try to get the gold.”
Does Elias now has the running bug?
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I like the adrenaline that runs through my body when I run and I like how a lot of people from Tornillo support me.”
Garcia said he is proud of Elias’ first season of cross country.
“Kylene ran hard again and got a PR,” he said. “She got boxed-in in the first 400 meters of the race and that affected her a little bit. She is used to leading the race but she was never able to get a lead. At the end of the race, she was about to throw up. She fell into fifth place because of that but she managed to come back and almost caught second place.”
Elias said she didn’t know what happened at the end of the race.
“I was giving it my all but I guess my stomach didn’t like the breakfast from the morning,” she said. “I saw the girl in third place slowing down, I guess she thought I couldn’t catch up to her, but I was running as fast I could and I got her.”
The Americas boysimproved from last year’s 15th place finish to placing sixth while the Franklin girls finished 15th in their first state appearance.
Americas placed two runners – senior Hector Sanchez (17th, 15:15.36) and sophomore Jared Laverty (25th, 15:21.72) – in the top 25. Other runners for the Trailblazers include senior Jacob Ye (51st, 15:42.69), senior Seth Andrade (80th, 15:56.97), sophomoreAaron Saenz (83rd, 15:57.78), junior Gage Garcia (98th, 16:09.52) and sophomore Carmelo Corral, (108th, 16:20.46).
Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez was the first El Pasoan in Class 6A to cross the finish line in 15:11.31 good for 14th place. Franklin seniorFernie Morales was 18th in 15:16.52.
For the 6A girl’s, after Eva Jess’s second place finish, Americas senior Mariana Guzman was 20th in 18:21.05; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia was 99th in 19:28.96 and Coronado freshman Kyra Walker was 118th.
Franklin’s runners were freshman Alyssa Laspada (123rd, 20:08.78), freshman Sofia Camacho (128th, 20:14.16), sophomore Jordan Torres (131st, 20:24.77), freshman Michele Paillard (133rd, 20:25.40), freshman Amanda Sotelo (140th, 20:51.78 and sophomore Jenna Saunders (144th, 21:13.61).
When: Saturday Nov. 9. All times (CST): Girls Class 3A, 10:50 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 11:20 a.m.; Girls Class 4A, noon; Boys Class 4A, 12:30 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 1:10 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 6A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 6A, 3:10 p.m.
Where: Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
At Stake: State team and individual titles.
The Region 1 cross country championship can be excruciating, especially if you are not part of a state-qualify team and you have to wait until the final results are revealed to find out if you advanced or not.
You see, only the top four teams and the top 10 runners not on a qualifying team advance so you can cut the tension with a knife as runners from all across the region wait anxiously for the results.
As always, El Paso will have a full delegation with 15 individual runners headed to state.
From Class 6A –Americas senior Mariana Guzman; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia, Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Kyra Walker and Franklin senior Fernie Morales, Franklin.
From Class 5A – Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson and junior Melody Tsuitsumi; Lauren Walls-Portillo, sophomore, Eastwood; Eastlake sophomore Israel David and Angel Contreras, senior, Chapin.
From Class 4A- Mt. View junior Kayhla Talavera, senior Nicole Estrada and junior Joshua Gonzalez and Karina Gallegos, junior, San Elizario.
Class 3A – Freshman, Kylene Elias, Tornillo.
Last year, Eastwood sophomore Lauren Walls-Portillo ran her first state championship as part of the Troopers team in Class 5A.
“I’m going to pretend my team is with me right there because they are my motivation,” she said. “I know how much they wanted to make it but they will be with me in my heart and spirit.”
She finished 45th in 19:25.55 last year.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” she said of the 2018 meet. “Just being there was an amazing feeling. I ran pretty good but this year and I feel much stronger so I’m shooting for a higher finish.”
Knowing the course is going to be an advantage for her.
“It’s flat so that’s good,” she said. “I’m thankful that I made it. I want to go into the race with confidence and work just as hard as I did last year. I didn’t have a race strategy last year, I was just so excited to be there, but this year I actually do. I’m going to try to stay with the front pack and hopefully not die out.”
Coronado’s Gonzalez, who ran varsity all four years, will also be running his second state meet. Last year he was 21st in 15:29.16.
“Running at state has always been a dream, ever since freshman year,” he said. “Getting to regionals each year, but not making it until junior year, and now being able to make it again, is really great.”
He is looking for an All State, top 10 finish.
“I think I can do very well,” he said. “I’ve been able to continue to grow each year and each year I’ve improved. My cross country experience at Coronado has been amazing. I’ve been able to see myself progress and it really feels good seeing the work pay off.”
Eastlake sophomore Isreal David was 43rd at last year’s Class 5A state race in 16:09.56.
He was able to experience the state experience which should serve him well his second time around.
“There’s a lot of competition there with a lot of fast runners who are going to push me pretty hard,” he said. “I’m in better shape this year because I’ve been improving a lot, working on my training and fixing what I need to fix. I going for a top 10 finish, I think I’m physically and mentally prepared for that.”
New to the state championship are Tornillo freshman Kylene Elias, Americas senior Mariana Guzman and Franklin senior Fernie Morales.
“I couldn’t believe I qualified,” said Guzman. “It felt like a dream come true. I’ve very thankful and really happy I get to represent not only my school but all of the hard work my coaches have put into coaching me.”
Guzman was 13th in the Class 6A race at regionals, racing to a 18:14.40, the second best finish from El Paso.
“It was intimidated going into the race,” she said. “I felt I was a little bit conservative towards the middle of the race thinking I might die out. I could have done a lot better so I’m looking to improve on Saturday.”
Guzman’s successful senior campaign comes after suffering through a season of injuries her junior year.
“I love running,” she said. “I love having my teammates there all the time. It was positive environment that I wanted to come back to, they are the ones that kept me going.”
Tornillo’s Elias, all4-feet, 11-inches and 80 pounds of her, won the 2-mile, Class 3A Region 1 championship in 11:57.60 to become the first Tornillo girls to win regionals and advance to state.
“Regionals was a very cool experiencebecauseHannah Spears (from Holliday) was there and she is a very good runner,” she said. “She gave me a lot of competition.”
Elias’s first love was basketball but after this season, that’s changed.
“It’s not really my favorite sport anymore,” she said, laughing. “I lot of people have supported me this season. Plus, I don’t think I was really good in basketball.”
Despite her success, she remains humble.
“I don’t think that I’m that good,” she said. “Still, to this day, I don’t think I’m that good. I know I can still get better.”
She is looking forward to making more Tornillo history.
“I’m very excited because no one has ever gone to state from Tornillo from the girl’s side so this is a really good opportunity for me to make school history,” she said. “I want to get on the podium, that would be a nice way to finish my freshman year.”
Also new to the sport – and to the state meet – is Franklin senior Fernie Morales,
“For the past three years I played football,” he said. “My junior year I did really well in the 800 (in track),so Idecided running was better suited for me going into college than football. Also, that season, a lot of my teammates where getting ACL and MCL tears, I didn’t want to risk anything that might effect my running so I decided to get out of football.”
And that decisions has paid off.
“My coachestold me in order to get ready for track season in the 800, they thought I should try cross country and see how I did,” he said.
He earned a top 20 Class 6A Region 1 finish and a trip to state
“I’mnervous and excited-and honestly a bit surprised,” he said of the state meet. “On Saturday, I’ll be happy running my race to the best of my ability and PRor better than I did at regionals.”
Friday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Mariana Guzman; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia, Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Kyra Walker and Franklin senior Fernie Morales, Franklin. Class 5A – Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson and junior Melody Tsuitsumi; Lauren Walls, sophomore, Eastwood; Eastlake sophomore Israel David and Angel Contreras, senior, Chapin. Class 4A- Mt. View junior Kayhla Talavera, senior Nicole Estrada and junior Joshua Gonzalez and Karina Gallegos, junior, San Elizario. Class 3A – Freshman, Kylene Elias, Tornillo.
What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.
When: Saturday Nov. 9. All times (CST): Girls Class 3A, 10:50 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 11:20 a.m.; Girls Class 4A, noon; Boys Class 4A, 12:30 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 1:10 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 6A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 6A, 3:10 p.m.
Where: Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
At Stake: State team and individual titles.
The words “redemption,” “disappointment” and “respect” keep creeping up when it comes to the Americas boy’s second trip trip to the UIL State Cross Country Championship.
It’s true, Americas did finish 15th out of 16 teams at last year’s state championship, the team’s first in school history.
It’s also true that the Trailblazers took their lumps on that Old Settlers Park course.
But they also learned some valuable lessons that helped propel them to a solid 2019 season, a second place Region 1-6A finish and an opportunity to right a wrong.
“Coming out as the fourth place team from Region 1 last year, we expected to do pretty well at state,” Americas coach Kenny Lucero said. “But that didn’t happen and the kids were pretty disappointed. The day after the state race, they committed themselves to work as hard they can to get back there and really redeem themselves.”
First step was at the Region 1 Championship where Americas finished secondbetween two nationally-ranked teams.
Southlake Carroll (ranked 18th in the nation) was first and Flower Mound (sixth in the nation) was third.
The Trailblazers placed three runners in the top 20 – seniors Jacob Ye (fifth, 14:58.40) and Hector Sanchez (ninth, 15:05.60) and sophomore Jared Laverty (16th, 15:22.50) – to earn 80 points, 20 points behind Southlake Carroll.
Other scoring runners were sophomore Aaron Saenz (22nd, 15:32.60) and senior Seth Andrade (28th, 15:37.80.
Junior Gage Garcia andsophomore Melo Corral make up the rest of the team.
With five of the seven runners back – Sanchez and Saenz are new to the stage – expectations are running high.
“Last year, people where saying, ‘look out for El Paso Americas’ and then we go out there and not perform exactly the way we wanted to … OK, I’ll say it, we choked, we choked,” Ye said with a laugh. “The guys are really excited. We’ve seen some state meet previews on MileSplitand they don’t have us predicted very high so that helps add fuel to the fire. All the guys are really motivated to go out there and prove everybody wrong and show that we can run with the top dogs.”
Ye, who ran a 15:47.33 at state last year, said finishing as Region 1 runner-up has boosted the team’s confidence.
“That was a big confidence booster for sure but regionals is a different race than state,” he said. “After regionals, the team talked about how well we did but we realize there is a bigger picture. I reminded them that Southlake always shows up at state and we know Flower Mound is not happy that an El Paso team beat them so they are going to come back with a vengeance. We now have a target on our back.”
But they also know they can compete against the best in Texas.
“The reason most of us are not overly excited is because we’ve worked hard for this moment and all of us have been running for many years so weknow how to handle the pressure,” he said. “We all have one common goal that we haven’t reached yet so we’re still not satisfied.”
Andrade said the team is more focused this year.
“We’re really excited that we were able to get second place at regionals,” he said. “We all ran our best, but the next day at practice we were focused and ready to accomplish our next goal of doing great things at state. We want to redeem ourselves by going out there and running as hard as we can and try to get top three.”
He said the team has applied the lessons of last year into it’s pre-race preparation.
“I didn’t handle the pressure as well as I wanted to,” he said. “It was a great experience, but now that I’ve experienced it, I’m a lot more ready and I know what to expect. The lesson I learned is we need to stay focused and not crack under the pressure of having so many schools there. You have to run your race as best as possible and you have to remember what you are running for. In our case, it’s for each other.”
Lucero said the team is using last year’s experience to fuel them for Saturday’s race.
“You can come up with the greatest motivational speeches in the world, but if the kids don’t want it inside, they are not going to perform,” he said. “Finishing second has given them confidence and their motivation is from the disappointment of last year’s results. I don’t think I have to say much. They have been there before and they were disappointed, they’ve run consistent as a pack all year, they really haven’t had a meet where they let down as a group.We are as healthy as we ever been so I think the kids are going to surprise a lot of people.”