Americas looks for state vindication

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.

The Americas boys hope a solid season of racing will translate into a state medal.

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 second  between 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 and  sophomore 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 MileSplit  and 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.”

Americas senior Jacob Ye (No. 1308) finished fifth at the Region 1-6A championship. He hopes to lead the Trailblazers to the school’s first team state medal.

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 we  know 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.”

Senior Hector Sanchez has been a nice addition to an already strong Americas team. He finished 10th at the Region 1-6A championship.

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.”

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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