After 3 decades, Hanks is back at state

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Tornillo boys.

Sunday: San Elizario boys.

Monday: Hanks boys.

Tuesday: Eastwood boys.

Wednesday: Franklin girls.

Thursday: Americas boys.

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.

Make Plans

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.

Hanks-Gael,Alejandro
Hanks freshman Alejandro Tarin and sophomore Gael Alvarado will be heavily counted on at the state meet.

The 32-year drought for the Hanks Knights boy’s cross country team is finally over.

For the first time since 1987 – when the team earned a bronze – Hanks will compete for a UIL state cross country team medal.

“We talked about it a lot over the season,” said Kim Gomez, the school’s cross country coach since 1990. “Having Michael (Abeyta) and Rodger (Rivera), we told the other boys that if there’s ever a chance, the time is now.”

The Knights were Region 1-5A runner-ups with 84 points, second to Eastwood which won with 57 points.

As expected, Abeyta and Rivera ran solid races with Abeyta finishing second in 14:35.10, the fastest any El Pasoan has ever run on the Region 1 course in Lubbock and Rivera was third in 14:51.30.

But it’s what the “other” runners did that was so great.

Freshman Alejandro Tarin was 22nd (15:33.70), senior Omar Munoz was 27th, (15:55.70) and sophomore Gael Alvarado was 30th (15:57.40). Juniors Michael Antuna and Christian Jaquez round out the team.

“Last year we finished sixth and we watched Burges advance to state,” she said. “We had been beating Burges in El Paso all year so the kids were really disappointed. It was in our mind all year so when we got second it was just amazing.”

And agonizing.

“I honestly didn’t see my number three runner come in, I couldn’t find him after the bridge, nobody could find him,” Gomez said. “I was having a fit, but once I found out he was my number three, I knew we were good; it was a great feeling, it really was.”

This is the first time Gomez has taken her entire squad to state.

Abeyta, a senior, has been All State the past three years finishing fifth last year, second his sophomore year and sixth his freshman year.

“I’m very grateful that I was able to help my team come up with me this year,” he said. “It’s nice that I won’t be traveling up there by myself. This time, I’ll have friends to back me up there. We are more than just teammates, we’re brothers so I know we’re going to have a blast up there.”

Hanks-Abeyta
Hanks senior Michael Abeyta and Graydon Morris from Aledo are expected to have their final battle at the Class 5A UIL State Cross Country Championship on Saturday,

He said the entire Hanks program is excited for the opportunity.

“They’re anxious, they are ready to get out there and run already,” Abeyta said. “We have to remind them of how we got here in the first place. It took all of us to work hard to put us in this situation. It took all of us to place second at regionals. We have to remind them to stay fresh, don’t do anything dumb, keep your body healthy and most importantly, have fun, you have to have fun and enjoy the experience.”

Rivera advanced to state last year placing eighth, to earn All-State honors.

“When we found out that we made it to state, everybody was super happy and really proud,” he said. “We placed better than we thought we could do, second, right behind Eastwood.”

For Rivera, who is in San Antonio for the UIL State Marching Band Contest, the team state berth has been a long-time coming.

“This team has been working hard to stay close to me and Michael,” he said. “We’ve been doing the same speed workouts but we are working really hard to keep closer together. The goal is to get on the medal stand and everyone is pretty hyped about it.”

Abeyta has always talked about how great it was to be able to represent Hanks at state, but he always had a desire to be part of a team, chasing a state medal.

“That says a lot about Michael, that is truly who Michael is,” Gomez said. “Michael is a great leader and motivator and he really wanted these boys to make it just as he wanted it for himself. He has always wanted his teammates to feel what he feels and now they will have that opportunity.”

Hanks-Rodger
Hanks senior Rodger Rivera hopes to repeat his All State performance at the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

But this team is more than the senior superstars.

“I’m just proud of the seven individual boys and I’m thrilled to death that they made state,” Gomez said. “I am so proud of what these boys have accomplished because they believed in themselves all year. Seeing these boys grow and mature has been a joy. My No. 3 guy at regionals is a freshman but in the summer, it was like pulling teeth to get him to practice in the morning. But once he did, I was very proud. That was the only time he was my three, Gael Alvardo was my three all year and the other one that was top 5, Omar, he has been No. 3 in some races.  All they need is an opportunity.”

An opportunity for a state medal awaits the Hanks Knights, right there within their grasp.

“I’ve been telling the boys that we can do this, that we can get on the podium,” Gomez said. “I told them we just don’t want to get to state and run, we need to get to state and get on that podium.”

 

Author: Victor R. Martinez

My love of running began with my son Deric. His passion and talent for distance running opened my eyes to a sport I never imaged I would embrace with such enthusiasm. As a journalist at the El Paso Times, I was the lead writer for cross country and track for several years and I was able to tell the stories of these amazing unsung athletes. Never a runner myself, I decided to change that when I turned 50 in 2016 when I trained for my first 5K. I've been running ever since and I love every minute of it - well - sort of.

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