Eastwood wins Class 5A State Championship; Cathedral’s Seagreaves defends TAPPS crown

 

StateChamps

Eastwood entered its fifth straight UIL State Cross Country Championship with an  unfamiliar label – the favorites.

The Troopers, who won bronze at last year’s championship at the Class 6A level, easily earned the school’s first state cross country championship Saturday afternoon at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

Eastwood won the championship scoring 62 points, 29 ahead of two-time Class 5A champion Lucas Lovejoy and 25 points better than state runner-up Austin Johnson.

Burges was 15th with 382 points.

“A state championship is big,” Eastwood coach Mike McLain said. “I felt we had a great opportunity to win state this year. I knew we had a chance. Our philosophy all year was to get into some really big meets against the best teams in the country so that these meets don’t feel like big meets, they just feel like another meet.”

Sergio Leon Cuartas
Eastwood sophomore Sergio Leon Cuartas was the first Trooper to cross the finish line at the state championship. He was 11th in 15:29.82.

Eastwood placed four runners in the top 25 – Sergio Cuartas (11th, 15:29.82), Juan Olmos (12th, 15:33.69), Kayn Quinones (16th, 15:39.75) and Elias Perez (21st, 5:47.13.).

Eddie Gallegos was 32nd in 16:00.52, Aaron Perez was 63rd in 16:27.85 and Nathan Hernandez was 64th in 16:27.91.

“Was there any special preparation for this race, nope, just normal preparation,” McLain. “We didn’t change a thing. We just go out there and do what we do every week and have a good race, not a great race, just a good race. If we have a good race than we’ll take care of business and we’ll do just fine.”

Olmos, a junior, said winning a state championship means a lot to a program that has advanced to the state meet seven out of the past eight years.

“We’ve been working towards this for years and so did the guys before us and the guys before them,” he said. “It’s amazing to be able to bring home a state title to our school and for each other, it really means a lot. We did it for each other and for the coaches.”

Olmos said this championship is made more special because of who it was with.

“This is what you can accomplish if you work together,” he said. “We all worked really hard to get where we’re at. These guys are my brothers, we had a great time racing together, getting here and having a lot of fun.”

AbeytaRiveraLeadingpack
Hanks juniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera earned All State honors after finishing 5th and 8th in 15:15.72 and 15:20.56.

Individually in Class 5A, Hanks junior Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera earned All State honors after finishing 5th and 8th in 15:15.72 and 15:20.56 as did Eastlake senior Aerial Garcia.  She was 7th in the girl’s race in 18:27.77.

Eastwood girls finished 11th in the team standings.

“The girls came in here ranked 16 out of 16 teams and finished 11,” McLain said. “They ran their butts off. For their first time here, they stepped up and beat several teams predicted to come out ahead of them.”

For Eastlake’s Garcia, her All State performance was a year in the making.

“I really wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” Garcia said. “I was pretty confident I would finish top 20 but I had no idea it would be a top 10. I knew had to give everything I had.”

Aerial and Eastlake team - STATE
Eastlake’s Aerial Garcia (second from the right) earned All State honors in Class 5A. Her teammates – Israel David, Carlos Armendariz and Amaris Chavez – also qualified for the state meet.

At last year’s state championship Garcia finished 117th.

“Knowing what happened last year lit a little fire underneath me,” she said. “I always kept it in the back of my mind and I know that’s not a really good thing to carry with you but it was motivational for me. Last year my goal was to get to state but this year the goal was to place and to get a medal. Whenever I wanted to quit in practice the thought of 117 kept me going even when I didn’t want.”

Being All State means a lot for Garcia.

“I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud of me, whatever it took, that was always the initial goal for me,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to strive to be what they’ve always wanted me to be. I like being a very successful person so to me this symbolizes my hard work.”

Class 5A Results

Championship Results (Boys): 1, Graydon Morris, Aledo, 15:03.98; 2, Cameron Kleiman, Austin Johnson, 15:08.41; 3, Yaseen Abdalla, Austin Johnson. El Paso runners: 5, Michael Abeyta, Hanks, 15:15.72; 8, Rodger Rivera, Hanks, 15:20.56; 11, Sergio Cuartas, Eastwood, 15:29.82; 12, Juan Olmos, Eastwood, 15:33.69; 16, Kayn Quinones, Eastwood, 15:39.75; 21, Elias Perez, Eastwood, 15:47.13; 23, Angel Contreras, Chapin, 15:48.70; 32, Eddie Gallegos, Eastwood, 16:00.52; 43, Israel David, Eastlake, 16:09.56; 56, Carlos Armendariz, Eastlake, 16:23.06; 63, Aaron Perez, Eastwood, 16:27.85; 64, Nathan Hernandez, Eastwood, 16:27.91; 83, Angel Ortiz, Burges, 16:45.09; 97, Chauncey Wilkes, Andress, 16:52.30; 114, Luis Cuevas, Burges, 17:06.68; 115, Sam Zambrano, Burges, 17:07.79; 122, Noah Yeager, Burges, 17:26.10; 124, David Gonzalez, Burges.,  17:36.43; 134, Dylan Walker, Burges, 17:57.62; 144, Luis Holguin, Burges, 19:00.88.

Team results: 1, Eastwood, 62; 2, Austin Johnson, 87; 3, Lucas Lovejoy, 91; 15, Burges, 382.

Championship Results (Girls): 1, London Cublreath, McKinny North, 16:58.52; 2, Allison Wilson, Montgomery, 17:16.33; 3, Colleen Stegmann, Frisco Reedy, 17:28.87. El Paso runners; 7, Aerial Garcia, Eastlake, 18:27.77; 13, Amaris Chavez, Eastlake, 18:48.42; 25, Lauren Walls, Eastwood, 19:25.55; 38, Meadow Ortiz, Eastwood, 19:52.02; 43, Crystal Peterson, Jefferson, 19:21.03; 48 Eileen McLain, Eastwood, 20:10.28; 69, Destiny Martinez, Eastwood, 20:26.23; 86, Lauren Villareal, Eastwood, 20:56.76; 104, Adalia Olmos, Eastwood, 22:22.12; 105 Andrea Miramontes, 22:26.49.

Team results: 1, Frisco Wakeland, 90; 2, Boerne Champion, 98; 3, Cedar Park, 106; 11, Eastwood, 266.

Class 6A

Coronado senior Liam Walsh earned All State honors with a 10th place finish in 15:13.37 and Americas finished 15th in its first state meet.

Coronado senior Jenelle Jaeger-Darakjy just missed out on All State honors as she placed 11th in 17:35.41. Franklin sophomore Eva Jess was 14th in 17:40.36.

Liam@state
Coronado senior Liam Walsh ended his cross country season with All State Honors in Class 6A.

“It’s been a great experience,” Walsh said of running for Coronado. “At first I wasn’t really team oriented but as I got older, I become a better version of myself through cross country and track and I learned not only to be a good athlete but a good teammate.”

Walsh has helped in the development of teammates Nick Gonzalez who placed 21st in 15:29.16 and Alan Alba who just missed out on a state bid at regionals.

“They’ve been great,” Walsh said. “They are way better than I ever will be so I want to see the best of them.  I hope they can follow and do better than me next year.”

Walsh said he is also happy with his development this season.

“I really wanted to PR, my PR is 15:08, I didn’t hit it but I was close and I’m satisfied with that,” he said. “I improved a lot from last year and that’s what I really wanted to see.”

Class 6A results

Championship Results (Boys): 1, Alex Maier, Flower Mound, 14:34.92; 2, Ryan Schoppe, LaPorte, 14:43.88; 3, Spencer Cardinal, The Woodland, 14:50.25. El Paso runners: 10, Liam Walsh, Coronado, 15:13.37; 21, Nick Gonzalez, Coronado, 15:29.16; 27, Jacob Ye, Americas, 15:47.33; 33, Tyler Rodriguez, Americas, 15:50.33; 62, Jared Laverty, Americas, 16:04.26; 83, Seth Andrade, Americas, 16:26.97; 84, Gage Garcia, Americas, 16:29.09; 86, Alek Duran, Americas, 16:30.82; 100, Jacobo Wedemeyer, Franklin, 16:06.88; 109, Carmelo Corral, 17:30.40.

Team results: 1, Coppell, 79; 2, Flower Mound, 93; 3, Prosper, 94.

Championship Results (Girls): 1, Ashlyn Hillyard, Plano, 16:38.30; 2, Brynn Brown, Guyer, 16:45.36; 3, Aubrey O’Connell, Prosper, 16:52.84. El Paso runners: 11, Jennelle Jaeger-Darakjy, Coronado, 17:35.41; 14, Eva Jess, Franklin, 17:40.36.

Team results: 1, The Woodlands, 99; 2, Southlake Carroll, 113; 3, Flower Mound, 117; 15, Americas, 289.

Class 4A

It’s never easy defending a state championship.

But San Elizario was successful at it three times before.

Saturday was a much different story.

The Eagles fell 12 points short of its fifth consecutive state title, finishing third behind state champion Decatur (90 points) and Andrews (92).

San Eli Boys - STATE
San Elizario closed out the season with a third place finish in Class 4A. The Eagles came 12 points shy of winning their fifth consecutive state title.

“To be honest, we wanted to win it and it’s sad that we didn’t but I’m still very proud of this team,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales said. “We came in ranked eighth out of 16 but I knew we could have taken it. I took full responsible for what happened this season. I told the kids things were going to change a little bit next year. I’m going to reflect on the season and come back with a new plan to make us better.”

Defending Class 4A individual state champion, sophomore Edwin Gomez earned a silver medal.

“I broke my personal best at 15:07,” he said. “The guy who beat me had a 15:02, so you know it was a very tough race.”

Judson Greer from Melissa ran the course in 15:02.90 while Gomez finished in 15:07.63.

“We had our ups and downs this season,” Gomez said. “We had three runners who had leg injuries but we can’t use that as an excuse, we have to use this to prepare and build for next season. We can’t wait to get started.”

Morales said things happen for a reason.

“After everything that has happened this season, I’m very proud of this team and I’ll stand by them all the time,” he said. “We’re going to use this experience to get better.  I only have one senior so all the guys will be back. I know the rest of the team is going to improve and we are going to learn from this. It’s a step down but we are going to use it as a platform to move up.”

Class 4A results

Championship Results (Boys): 1, Judson Greer, Melissa, 15:02.90; 2, Edwin Gomez, San Elizario, 15:07.63; 3, Samuel Ashley, Canyon, 15:40.49. San Elizario runners: 20, Irvin Vazquez, 16:46.61; 21, Martin Pargas, 16:46.94; 23, Rene Arambula, 16:48.15; 36, Dilan Sanchez, 17:13.70; 87, Seth Rodriguez, 18:07.41; 90, Jacob Ordonez, 18:11.63.

Team results: 1, Decatur, 90; 2, Andrews, 92; 3, San Elizario, 102.

Edwin-Brandon
San Elizario sophomore Edwin Gomez won silver at the UIL Class 4A championship and Cathedral senior Brandon Seagreaves won gold at the TAPPS state championship.

TAPPS

Cathedral senior Brandon Seagreaves won the TAPPS Class 6A title for the third straight year, finishing in 16:20.6.

As a team, Cathedral placed 4th with 116 points behind state champ San Antonio Antonian (75), Houston St. Thomas (96) and Argyle Liberty (101).

“I’ve never looked at it as being a defending state champion,” said Seagreaves, who committed to Houston on Sunday. “I’ve always looked at it as being back to square one, pretending I don’t have any state championships. I’ve been really good about resetting and refocusing each year.”

After his freshman year, Seagreaves knew he could be a state champion.

“I knew it was possible for me to be a state champion so I put my head down and I put in a lot of hard work and I won my sophomore year,” he said. “One of the things I took away from that is year after year, it’s never going to get easier. As a matter of fact, it gets harder because it doesn’t matter if you are seeded first going into a race or seeded last, all eyes are going to be on me because I won in the previous year. That’s hard to deal with because everyone is expecting you to do well.”

He said this year’s team – and championship – will be cherished.

“This year’s team was super, super close,” he said. “This is the closest I have ever been with a group of guys. To be able to put my foot on the line for those guys and run for them with hopes of winning a state title has been amazing. It was the first year where I wanted to go out there and win for my team, not just for me. It’s been a super fun year.

Other results

Class 3A Championship Results (Boys): 1, Kevin Baez, Vanderbilt Industrial, 15:29.98; 2, Michael Urbina, Whitesboro; 3, Edwin Zamudio, Luling, 16:02.43. Tornillo runners: 14, Eduardo Carrillo, 16:52.47; 15, Ofir Ortega, 16:53.77; 55 Bryan Garcia, 17:59.62; 59, Michael Maney, 18:06.48; 64, Bryan Guzman, 18:15.48; 69, Heriberto Amaya, 18:19.27; 103, Tommy Montelongo, 19:41.14

Team results: 1, Eustace, 65; 2, Crane, 104; 3, Lytle, 144; 7, Tornillo, 207.

Mt. View junior Nicole Estrada was 90th in 13:10.28 (2 miles) in the girls 3A race. Anna Casey from Llano won gold in 11:39.78.

Showdown at Old Settlers Park; 15 individual qualifiers race for gold

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Cathedral boys.

SundayTornillo 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.

Make Plans

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.

JenelleEva
Franklin’s Eva Jess and Cornado’s Jennelle Jaeger-Darakjy will have one more battle this year – at the UIL Class 6A State Cross Country Championship.

Franklin’s Eva Jess, Coronado’s Jennelle Jaeger-Darakjy and Eastlake’s Aeriel Garcia have been the three most consistent runners this season.

Between them, they have won 11 meets – seven for Jess and two each for Jaeger-Darakjy and Garcia.

They own the top three girl’s times in the city – 17:31.08 for the Franklin sophomore, 17:44.43 for the Franklin senior and 17:49.17 for the Eastlake senior.

And they each have UIL State Cross Country Championship experience.

Jess, Jaeger-Darakjy and Garcia lead a strong contingent of 15 runners who will compete for a state championship in Class 4A through Class 6A.

Aerial
Eastlake senior Aeriel Garcia hopes to improve on last year’s Class 5A State Championship.

“My training has gotten a lot better,” Jaeger-Darakjy said. “The way that I’ve been able to keep up with Eva makes me feel a lot better about my training.”

Jaeger-Darakjy finished ahead of Jess, the District 1-6A champion, for the first  time in two years at the Region 1-6A Championship. She was sixth in 17:44.43 while Jess was eighth in 17:46.05.

Jaeger-Darakjy, who recently committed to UT-Austin to run track, hopes to improve on her 22nd place finish (18:25.22) at last year’s state meet.

“I freaked out and didn’t stay with the pack,” she said. “They always say running a big meet like this the second time, you’ll do better. Last year I did not do what I was expected to do. But I hope it goes in my favor just like regionals. I had a pretty good race there.”

AngelContrerasChapin
Chapin junior Angel Contreras has peaked just at the right time as he makes his first Class 5A State Cross Country appearance.

Jess was All State last year after finishing in fifth place in 17:34.75.

As for Garcia, she has been building for this moment all year after finishing in 117th place (20:33.82) in the Class 5A Championship.

“I know the course now, I’ve been studying it for almost a year,” she said. “I kept the course map on my phone. Hopefully they didn’t change it too much but even if they did, I still know where the zig zags are. I think I’ll be able to flow through the course.”

Garcia will be joined by senior teammates Amaris Chavez and Carlos Armendariz and freshman Israel David.

The four of them have been working out for the past 10 days.

“It’s really nice to work out with the boys because I like competing and boys always give me that competition,” she said. “Even if I can’t beat them it’s always good for me.”

It will be Garcia and Chavez’s last cross country race together.

“It will definitely be bittersweet,” she said. “We worked hard in the summer. We put in a 110 percent effort without knowing what we would get out of it. We are proud of ourselves and what we accomplished so far. We always stayed humble and we sacrificed a lot just to get to this point. Ultimately it led up to this meet.”

LiamNick
Coronado’s duo of senior Liam Walsh and junior Nick Gonzalez have pushed each other the entire season.

Coronado’s duo of senior Liam Walsh and junior Nick Gonzalez and Franklin senior Jacobo Wedemeyer will represent the Class 6A boys.

Walsh is the only one with state championship experience, placing 31st in 15:44.03 last year.

Walsh and Gonzalez, the District 1-6A champion, have been battling back and further all season with Walsh getting the better of Gonzalez at the regional championship finishing fifth in 15:08.60. Gonzalez was eighth in 15:12.10 and Wedemeyer was 15th in 15:26.10.

Abeyta
Hanks junior Michael Abeyta earned a Class 5A silver medal at last year’s state championship.

In the Class 5A race, Hanks juniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera are looking for All State runs.

Abeyta was earned a silver medal last year finishing in 15:00.18, less than two seconds behind Aledo junior Graydon Morris (14:58.90).

Rivera has been the surprise of the season, finishing third at regionals in 15:20.40 behind Abeyta (15:12.70) and Morris (14:34.40).

Also competing in Class 5A for the first time are Eastlake’s David and Armendariz, Chapin junior Angel Contreras, Andress senior Chauncey Wilkes and Jefferson freshman Crystal Peterson.

Mt. View junior Nicole Estrada is the lone representative for the girls. 

Americas just happy to be here? Not by a long shot, they want more

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Cathedral boys.

SundayTornillo 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.

Make Plans

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.

AmericasTeam
Americas is coming off an impressive Regional 1-6A race where the team finished fourth in the always ultra-competitive Region of Doom.

 

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.”

TylerJacob
Americas senior Tyler Rodriquez (1949) and junior Jacob Ye will be counted on heavily at the UIL State Cross Country Championship. Both have had solid seasons for the Trailblazers.

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.

JaredLavery
Americas Jared Laverty owns one of the fastest times in the country for a freshman. He ran a season best 15:51.29 at Old Settlers Park, the state course, in late September.

“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.”

Eastwood boys chase another state medal; girls return after 30 years

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Cathedral boys.

SundayTornillo 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.

Make Plans

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.

EastwoodBoysTurn
The Eastwood boys run as a tight pack from 1 through 7. The team is seeking a Class 5A state championship on Saturday.

 

Lauren Villareal is the epitome of what an Eastwood cross country athlete is.

For three years, the senior ran track – mostly the 400 and 800 – and never once considered distance.

After many of her races, cross country coach Mike McLain would ask her about joining the cross country team.

This summer she took him up on that offer.

On Saturday, Villareal will be part of the first Eastwood girl’s team since 1988 to compete at the Class 5A UIL State Cross Country Championship. That 1988 team finished fourth.

“I always thought of myself as a sprinter but by my junior year, I realized I wasn’t a sprinter after all,” Villareal said, only half jokingly. “I finally took coach McLain’s offer up and started training with the team in the summer.”

It wasn’t easy but Villareal, the lone senior, pushed on with the help or her new teammates – juniors Meadow Ortiz, Eileen McLain, Destiny Martinez and Andrea Miramontes and freshman Lauren Wall.

“It was really rough on me,” she said. “I was always behind the other girls and it was hard for me. But the girls stuck with me and helped me get where I’m at right now.”

LaurenVillarealEastwood
Eastwood senior Lauren Villareal has been a consistent five runner for the state-bound Troopers. She never ran distance until this season.

The Trooper will attempt to be the first girls team from Eastwood to medal since the 1987 team that won Region 1 and captured the bronze medal at state.

“These girls had to overcome a lot,” McLain said. “One of my top girls broke her ankle playing club basketball. She’s come back and running well but not at the level she would have if not for the injury.”

McLain said the team has had to replace quality runners from last year’s team.

“We don’t get very many of those really talented club kids so we have to build our runners up,” he said. “Lauren is an example of that. Everybody is going to have their own struggles but it’s those struggles that make the victories better.”

Villareal said she wishes she would have started cross country her freshman year.

“The girls have been really great,” she said. “We are so close, we’re like a family who always helps each other out. We try to push each other harder and harder every single day.”

LauranWall
Eastwood will lean heavily on District 2-5A champion Lauren Wall at the state championship.

Eastwood’s boys team is also headed to state for the seventh consecutive year. Last fall, the Troopers placed third in Class 6A.

“This group of boys understands the team culture that me and my coaches try to create,” McLain said. “They understand it and embrace it.”

Eastwood joins a short list of schools from El Paso to have a boys and girls team represented at state. The Chapin Huskies did it in 2006, the Burges Mustangs accomplished that feat in 1983 and 1984 and Bel Air sent boys and girls teams in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

The 1983 Burges teams earned medals, the girls silver and the boys bronze.

Out in the county, Clint, under Sonny Pitts, took boys and girls teams to state four consecutive years – from 1994 to 1997.

The boys team, which won the Region 1-5A meet by 79 points, consists of seniors Kayn Quinones and Eddie Gallegos, juniors Juan Olmos and Elias Perez and sophomores Sergio Cuartas, Aaron Perez and Nathan Hernandez.

“These guys have an ability to run together as a pack that I have never seen a team in El Paso ever have,” McLain said. “Even last week when one of my top kids, Nathan Hernandez, turns into my No. 7 because of asthma issues, we still get four in the top 10 and my five guy is 15th.”

EddieGallegos
Senior Eddie Gallegos and sophomore Sergio Cuartas have bought into Eastwood’s “team first’ concept.

Gallegos said the team hopes to add a third gold medal after winning the District 2-5A and the Region 1-5A championship.

“There is no pressure on us, and that’s something we have to thank our coach for,” he said. “A lot of other coaches expect so much out of their runners and if they don’t meet that expectation then you’re horrible or you aren’t living up to your worth. Our coach has made it stress-free. We are going into to state like any other race. Just like we prepared for district, just like we prepare for Desert Twilight or Woodbridge. We understand the stakes are higher but it’s just another race.”

Gallegos, who finished 15th at the regional, has bought in to the “team-first” culture at Eastwood.

“We run hard for each other, we take pride in that,” he said. “Seeing your teammates working hard makes you want to work just as hard, too. Why shouldn’t we work hard for each other?”

Eastwood’s pack running could prove the difference on Saturday as they chase two-time defending state champion Lucas Lovejoy.

“The pack running benefits us simply because we’re with each other; we are not alone,” Gallegos said. “You have six other people there who have worked just as hard as you and who are just as nervous as you that are ready to prove something. We are going to do this because this is what we’ve been training for.”

McLain said competing and being successful against the country’s and region’s best runners has been beneficial.

“Running in these big meets keeps our kids very relaxed,” he said. “They are not as stressed as other teams. That’s one reason it’s important for my girls to have made this meet. It’s not always just training that gets you things, its mental attitude. Once you accomplish something once, its easier to accomplish it the second time.”

 

Top 10 state finish in sights for Burges

State Championship Previews

Sunday:  Tornillo boys.

Monday: San Elizario boys.

Tuesday: Burges boys.

Wednesday: Eastwood boys and girls.

Thursday: Americas boys.

Friday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Coronado runners senior Liam Walsh and junior Nick Gonzalez; Franklin senior Jacobo Wedemeyer; Coronado senior Jennelle Jaeger-Daraksy and Franklin sophomore Eva Jess. Class 5A – Hanks juniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera; Eastlake teammates freshman Israel David and senior Carlos Armendariz; Chapin junior Angel Contreras; Andress senior Chauncey Wilkes; Jefferson freshman Crystal Peterson and Eastlake seniors Aeriel Garcia and Amaris Chavez. Class 4A – Mt. View junior Nicole Estrada.

Make Plans

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.

BurgesBoys
The strength of the Burges team is its depth. Sophomore David Gonzalez was 28th at the Region 1-5A Championship and senior Luis Cuevas was 41st.

As the Burges Mustangs cross country team prepares for its second straight Class 5A UIL State Cross Country Championship, head coach Alex Smith remains calm.

The veteran coach rarely shows emotion.

Even at the regional championship where the Mustangs squeezed in to earn the final spot to Round Rock with a fourth place finish, one point behind Canyon Randall and eight points ahead of Aledo, Smith remained stoic.

OK, he cracked a smile, a tiny one, but a smile nevertheless.

“I felt that we were strong enough to move on,” he said. “Out of the runners who are going, three of them were here last year so based on that I thought we had a very good chance of going back to state.”

Senior Sam Zambrano led the way at regionals finishing 11th in 15:47.00.

Returning from the 2017 state team are three seniors –  Zambrano, Luis Cuevas and Angel Ortiz – junior Noah Yeager and sophomores David Gonzalez, Dylan Walker and Luis Holguin.

SamZambrano
Burges senior Sam Zambrano is making his third state appearance. This is the second consecutive year the team has advanced to the state meet.

Burges finished 14th at last year’s state meet.

“With the way that we’ve been running, I would love to come in the top 10,” Smith said. “At one point during the season I thought we were a top 5 team but the way things have panned out, I think it would be very good if we finished in the top 10.”

Zambrano said this season has been rebuilding year.

“We had a fourth senior who decided not to run this year so we had to add two new sophomores,” he said. “We were actually a little surprised that we made it back to state. We knew we could make it but we weren’t sure until the very end.”

He said the team is now focused.

“Anything can happen at state,” he said. “For me, I focus on what we are working on that day. I don’t like looking past what we have to do. We just have to do our jobs. We all know what we have to do.”

Zambrano is looking for a top 20 performance for himself and a top 10 finish for his team.

“Last year we didn’t do as well as we thought we could have,” he said. “Hopefully, we can go top 10 or maybe a top seven if everything goes well. We just have to believe in ourselves and run together as a whole.”

This will be his third state meet.

AngelOrtizBurges
Senior Angel Ortiz has been steady all season for the Mustangs. His points will be very important if the Mustangs hope to finish in the top 10 at state.

“It’s my senior year so I really want to do well,” he said. “I’m going to be nervous, I always get anxious before the start but once the gun goes off, I calm my nerves and start to run on pace and just try to place myself in a good position.”

Burges appears to be peaking at the right time.

“Last year, I knew our team would be good enough to advance to state and we did it,” he said. “This year, I knew we could do it as well but we weren’t working as a unit in the beginning of the season so I was worried about that.”

Mentally and physically, the Mustangs are ready to toe the line with the best Texas has to offer.

“We’re in the right frame of mind right now,” Zambrano said. “Physically, we are ready, we just have to put it all out there and compete. This is it, there are no tomorrows, it’s our last run together so we have to go out there and give it our all.”

San Elizario chasing 5th State Title

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Cathedral boys.

SundayTornillo 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.

Make Plans

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.

SanEli@District
San Elizario will race for its fifth consecutive Class 4A state championship Saturday at 1:50 p.m. (CST) at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Overcoming adversity is nothing new for the San Elizario cross country.

Before the season even began, the four-time defending Class 4A state champions faced a daunting challenge when All State runner junior Rene Arambula broke his left ankle and was thought to be lost for the season.

Yet, they picked themselves up and won five team championships without him behind sophomore Edwin Gomez who won the Region 1-4A title and the District 1-4A championship.

Arambula, who finished fifth at last year’s state meet surprisingly did return and contributed to San Elizario’s fifth straight district.

So, it’s no surprise how the Eagles have approached this week’s training after placing an uncharacteristic third at the region race behind Andrews and Canyon, who moved down from Class 5A.

Edwin@District
San Elizario sophomore Edwin Gomez will attempt to defend his individual Class 4A state title and lead the Eagles to its fifth state championship.

San Elizario had won the previous four Region 1-4A crowns.

“I’m not going to lie, in the beginning, the ride home was hard,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizario’s coach. “I knew after the first mile of the race it was going to be tough. I was missing one of my runners due to personal issues, but even without him, the goal was always going to be the same and that was going to be to qualify for state.”

Which they did.

“This was a good thing,” he said. “We needed this wake-up call. It’s not always good to finish on top. I would rather have a group of hard workers than having a team full of talent.”

The regional results have grounded and humbled the team.

“Training has been more focused and the kids have been more united,” Morales said. “There is pressure to win state but not as much if we would have won regionals. The kids are relaxed now and are humble. The know it’s going to be tough.”

Arambula said the team has been working hard.

“We have a purpose now,” he said. “We have to keep moving forward and use regionals as motivation. Our mission is always to improve with every race. Regionals didn’t go as planned but that’s part of it, we just have to get better and move on.”

IrvinVasquezSanEli
Freshman Irvin Vasquez (580) was 22nd at last week’s Region 1-4A Championship. He will be counted on heavily to help the Eagles to a fifth state championship.

He said the regional loss will serve as a reminder of the work required to win a state championship.

“I’m confident about chances,” he said. “We’re not going to be pushed out that easily.  We’re going to give it our best, that’s something we pride ourselves in at San Eli, we never give up.”

Morales said he is impressed with the way the team has responded.

“The kids are very motivated and are willing to work even harder,” he said. “They know it’s not going to be easy. They know our work is not done. They know everyone is going to have to improve several seconds but they also know it’s very, very possible. Now it’s a matter of making the right adjustments. The team has recommitted itself to our ultimate goal.”

Tornillo hopes to rebound with strong state performance

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.

Make Plans

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.

TornilloTeam
Tornillo is headed back to state for the ninth time in 10 years. They are looking to improve on their back-to-back silver medal performances.

Tornillo’s quest for five consecutive Region 1-3A championship came to an abrupt end last week.

And that could be a good thing heading into this week’s UIL State Cross Country Championship.

“It’s not a good feeling giving away that streak of regional championships that we’ve worked so hard for,” coach Jesse Garcia said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s hard to accept second place. Maybe those kids wanted it a little bit more than we did.”

Tornillo had a run of four straight team and individual championships. Both ended as Boyd’s fifth runner Noah Richardson out leaned Tornillo’s fifth guy Heriberto Amaya at the finish line. Boyd won it with 89 points followed by Tornillo with 91 and Crane with 94 points.

Tornillo’s junior Ofir Ortega was second overall in 16:04.70. Dimmitt senior Jace Sanchez was the region champion in 15:58.70.

“Sure, we lost the streak but I would rather be humbled at regionals than have it happen to us at state,” Garcia said.

The team – Ortega, seniors Amaya, Eduardo Carrillo and Tommy Montelongo; sophomores Bryan Garcia and Michael Maney and freshman Raymundo Feliz – are looking to rebound at the state meet.

“I knew it was going to be a fight, I knew Boyd was going to come after us and they did,” Garcia said. “The main message I had for the guys is we are not going to be scared of being in a fight. We’re going to come back hungrier for that next race. It doesn’t matter who is going to be on that line, Boyd or any other school, we are we’re going to take it to them. We’re going to do our best.”

If anything, the regional race showed the Coyotes the importance of the four, five, six and seven runners.

OfirOrtega@Horizon
Tornillo junior Ofir Ortega hopes to have a top 10 state performance. Last year he was 19th in 16:45.79.

“Every runner matters,” said Maney. “I now know the importance that every single teammate has on the eventual score. To get where we want to be, we all have to come together and win it as a group.”

In his first season of cross country, Maney has been the consistent fourth or fifth runner for Tornillo.

He finished 32nd overall (17:44.60) and fourth on the team at regionals.

Maney said being upset at regionals, will motivate his team.

“Over the past four years the seniors have won regionals and have made it to state so getting second place was a wakeup call for us. It’s something that’s going to give us that little extra drive to win state and try to get another medal.”

The focus is now firmly on the state meet where Tornillo will try to unseat Luling who have won eight straight Class 3A championships.

“I don’t think state is going to be a low scoring affair,” Garcia said. “There isn’t just one team that’s going to dominate. The top four teams could easily end up in first or fourth place, that’s how close it’s going to be. I see a 20-point difference between first to fifth place.”

EduradoCarrillo
Tornillo senior Eduardo Carrillo needs to run a solid race in order for the Coyotes to medal at state. Carrillo ran a 16:19.52 at last year’s state meet, good for 11th place.

Despite the disappointing regional finish, Garcia is encouraged by his team.

“I saw the guys fight like they never have before,” he said. “That tells me that we’re mentally prepared for whatever is going to happen. Last year we had guys who were more prepared and seasoned but somehow, against all odds, I have a strange feeling about this group of boys.”

Garcia remains confident that the Coyotes can get back to the state medal stand where they have finished with silver medals the past two years.

“We are on the brink,” he said. “If they just follow the vision and they stick with one another, they are going to surprise a lot of people at the end of that race.”