Winning gold never gets old in San Elizario.
Matter of fact, it has become a tradition – a rite of passage for its runners.
The Class 4A cross country juggernaut defended its state title on Saturday morning at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, edging Region 1 foe Argyle by four points.
This was the Eagles sixth state title in eight years – winning in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2021. In the years they didn’t win gold, they finished second (2019) and third (2018).
Canyon, the Region 1 champion, was third.
“We’re very happy for the kids,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales. “Finishing second at regionals gave us a little bit of humility and it forced us to come up with a plan that needed to be executed. It all worked out perfectly for us.”
Morales credits the 25-second gap between his two through five runners for the team’s success.
“We knew it was going to come down to the last kilometer so made several adjustments that eventually paid off for us,” he said.
Junior Angel Maese was 29th in 16:41.3 followed by sophomore Matthew Maese (39th, 16:53.5), senior Irvin Vazquez (48th, 16:59.6), sophomore Julian Guerra (55th, 17:06.1), senior Alan Ceballos (69th, 17:13.1) and senior Jorge Maese (105th, 17:55.0).
He is also impressed with how the team has emerged as state champions after losing Edwin Gomez and Dilan Sanchez – its two leaders the past four years.
“This group of kids is carrying on that tradition of doing well in state,” Morales said. “Edwin was a great leader and a great athlete for the past four years so there was a question coming into the season if we could continue the San Eli legacy. This is proof that we can and that we will continue to do well.”
San Elizario junior Chris Moreno was second in 15:45.8, three seconds behind state champMicah Swann from Athens who completed the course in 15:42.4.
“The first mile was pretty relaxing but heading out into the second mile, Swann made a move, and I knew I had to keep up with him,” Moreno said. “Little by little, he was moving farther ahead of me, so I just kept my pace because I know I have a good 800-meter kick. Almost towards the end of the race, I noticed that he slipped and almost fell. I saw that as my opportunity, so I started pushing myself harder. But as we headed to the finish, he regained his momentum, and it was too late for me.”
Moreno said he was happy with his silver medal but is even happier the team was able to repeat as Class 4A state champions.
“It feels great,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, people all over Texas doubted we could do it again. It gave us motivation to show them we could do it even without Edwin and Dilan. In our hearts and in minds, we knew that we could win another state title for San Elizario and carry on the tradition.”
Riverside seniors Jayden Bustillos (16th, 16:18.5) and Andrew Valdiviezo (19th, 16:28.7) had top 20 finishes.
On the girl’s side in class 4A, San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez was 74th in the two-mile race in 12:45.0.
The Eastwood Troopers won its fifth consecutive state medal – eking out a bronze medal in Class 6A.
Initially, Humble Atascocista and Eastwood had been listed as having tied at 133 with Atascocista earning third place due to its sixth runner finishing better than Eastwood’s sixth.
However, about 20 minutes later, after resolving “a technical issue,” Eastwood was declared the winner, finishing with 132 points, one point better than Atascocista.
Southlake Carroll won state with 65 and The Woodlands was second with 96 points.
“The race goes on, the results come in and I see that we tied for third but lost the tiebreaker,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain. “We’re in the tent taking pictures with the girls and someone from MileSplit said ‘congratulations, they redid the results and you finished third.’ We had no idea what was happening, so we get on our phones and it still shows us at fourth.”
McLain went to the medal stand and asked someone there and they didn’t know what was going on either. McLain walked over to the UIL tent to speak with an official who told him to go another tent where there was a monitor showing rolling results.
“It showed us in third by one point,” McLain said. “I asked someone there and he told me to go back to the medal stand, which is where we started, to find out.”
They finally got a hold of the official timer who said they went through the camera finish and reversed a couple of things and Eastwood finished third.
“Two of our top runners were sick so coming into the race we knew a third-place finish was probably the best we could do, so that was pretty nice,” McLain said. “We knew medaling for five straight years at state would be historic for El Paso. We’ll celebrate this, and hopefully we can get those two boys feeling better and go after it again at Nike South.”
Seniors Andres Gurrola and Isaac Mendoza had top 20 finishes to lead Eastwood – Gurrola 12th in 15:28.6 and Isaac Mendoza, 17th in 15:37.8. Sophomore Jacob Beckett was 37th in 15:54.6 followed by senior Victor Anchondo (46th, 15:58.5), senior Devon Paez (108th, 16:44.6) and juniors Anthony Casillas (120th, 16:56.1) and Joaquin Chavez (148th, 17:51.1).
“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Gurrola said. “Regardless of the place we were going to get, we were all proud of the effort that we put in because we all know how hard we worked this season.”
Eastwood ran in its eighth consecutive state meet and its ninth in the past 10 years.
“This culture was built way before I came in,” Gurrola said. “As soon as I came in my freshman year, a light went on in my head. Watching the seniors and seeing the team succeed my freshman year and being able to go to NXN changed my mindset and inspired me.”
Austin Vandegrift junior Kevin Sanchez won the individual title in 14:53.4. Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim was eighth in 15:17.3 and Coronado junior Luis Pastor was tenth in 15:19.9 – both earning All-State honors.
“It was exciting and nerve racking but overall it was a great experience with great competition, and I really loved the flat course,” Ibrahim said. “I felt strong and good once the race got started but before the race I was wondering how it would go down so that got me a little nervous.”
Ibrahim said he didn’t feel too overwhelmed at his first state championship.
“I’m really excited about what I did; I really feel good about myself,” he said. “I did what I had to do, and I was able to get it done.”
Pastor said his first state championship was “roller coaster of emotions.”
“I would feel nervous for one second and then the next minute I was feeling good ready to compete,” he said. “Once the gun went off, I was trying to stick with my strategy. Usually, I like to run from the front because even if I died out, it wouldn’t matter because I would be so far ahead of everyone. But at regionals and state, I ran from the back and picked off one guy, one pack, at a time.”
Americas senior Jared Laverty was 45th in 15:58.4 and teammate Carmelo Corral was 71st in 16:17.8.
On the girl’s side, Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez and senior Lauren Walls-Portillo earned All-State honors.
It is the first time a pair of Eastwood teammates finished in the top 10.
Rodriguez was seventh in 17:49.2 and Walls-Portillo was tenth in 18:10.3.
“It’s really crazy, I honestly wasn’t expecting this,” Rodriguez said. “I just wanted to go out there and run my best race of the season.”
Rodriguez credits Walls-Portillo for her continued support throughout her first high school season.
“She is really special to me,” she said. “I never had a female teammate as fast as me so coming into Eastwood and seeing that I could run with Lauren was a big deal for me because of what she has accomplished in her four years. She has inspired me to do the same thing in my four years.”
Walls-Portillo, who ran in her fourth state meet, said is relieved she is leaving the Eastwood girl’s program in good hands.
“It feels really good knowing that she is going continue to keep the Eastwood tradition alive,” Walls-Portillo said. “It really comforts me to know that our girl’s team will have someone leading them next year.”
Lewisville Flower Mound senior Natalie Cook won the event in 16:32.4. Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada was 62nd in 19:08.1.
McLain said it was great to see two Eastwood girls receiving state medals around their necks. “This was one of the strongest years in our state for the girls,” McLain said. “The Woodlands and Flower Mound are killing it; Southlake Carroll was up there killing it against some of the best teams in the nation and they end fourth and they are one of the best teams in the nation.”