Cross country teams make clean sweep of District Championships

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All four Liberty Hill High School cross country teams, including boys and girls varsity and boys and girls junior varsity, gather for a photo following their sweep of the District Championships at all levels on Oct. 13. The varsity teams will compete in the Regional Meet in Huntsville on Oct. 23. The varsity girls will race at 1:50 p.m., and the boys will follow at 2:15 p.m. (Laura Coleman Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

After hard-fought battles on the cross country course in Lampasas on Oct. 13, all four Liberty Hill High School cross country teams took home District Championships, including boys and girls varsity and boys and girls JV.

In the varsity girls’ competition, the top five runners for Llano and Liberty Hill finished with both teams deadlocked in total points, in which case the sixth runner breaks the tie. That runner for Liberty Hill was Kennedy Coleman, and she brought home the tie breaker to give her team the victory.

“The varsity girls did excellent,” said Liberty Hill’s Head Cross Country Coach Kim Holt. “The varsity girls tied with Llano, so in the event the first five runners end in a tie, it comes down to the sixth runner. Kennedy Coleman was our sixth runner, and she beat their sixth runner, which gave us first place and pushed them to second. That was a great teaching moment. We often talk about the sixth runner and how they can be very important in the event of a tie situation, and that is exactly what happened. You never know when that is going to happen. It could possibly happen at Regionals. The sixth person does not score points, but they do break a tie. We knew it was going to be close, and they pulled it out in the end.”

The team won the title with a total score of 59 points. Hannah Johnson led the way for the Lady Panthers with a time of 13:15.50, finishing in 11th place, overall. Hannah Brown (13:15.92), Eliana Luna (13:22.57), Madison Sears (13:25.81), Brooke Howard (13:30.74) and Kennedy Coleman (13:47.71) also ran well for the varsity girls team, taking 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 20th, respectively.

“These girls have worked hard all season long,” Holt said. “Llano had two girls running at roughly 12:40, and we didn’t have that type of runner this year. In those situations, the team has to work together to finish as close as they can to one another. They have done that all year long, and they have worked together all year long. When they pass by at the meets, they are talking to each other and pushing each other. They meet the times I have asked them to meet in practice, and they have worked extremely hard this season. I am really proud of all they have accomplished.”

As the Lady Panthers prepare for their Regional Meet in Huntsville, Holt believes the team has a great chance to advance become a State qualifier. She believes that, moving forward, mental toughness will take on an even bigger role in the races to come.

“Moving to Regionals will be some tougher meets,” she said. “The top four go to State, and we have a chance. Right now, Fairfield is ranked number one, and they were first last year. Us, Llano and Lampasas ran really well at District, so they will all be vying for a spot to go to State. Mental toughness plays a big part in cross country meets. We’ve had really good success at the District level and Regionals, and you get to the State Meet and it is a completely different type of race. We’ve had some good races at State, and we’ve had some not so good races at State. Emotions and other things can sometimes play into that. You have to be mentally tough, and you hope the kids do what they need to do when the time comes.”

The varsity boys cross country team also hauled in a District Championship at the 19-4A District Meet. Despite some adversity, the team ran tough to capture a first-place finish.

“This District Meet, Alex Albarran, usually our number one boy, didn’t have his best race,” Holt said. “He was around a minute behind pace, but he kept running. He finished as our fourth guy, but we still hung on as a team and won. He had not had a bad race the entire year, but the team picked up the slack as a group. We talk about mental toughness all the time, and I feel like that is what they showed.”

The Panther boys scored 61 points to capture the district title. Gabriel Diaz led the way for the team with a time of 17:17 and a sixth-place overall finish. Nick Roth (17:20.45), Cade Cole (17:45.15), Alex Albarran (18:15.15) and Walker Gilbert (18:26.09) were the top five finishers for the team, finishing in 8th, 12th, 14th and 21st, respectively. Sam Roth (18:26.66) and Kaleb Lorance (18:26.70) rounded out the top seven runners for the Panthers with 22nd- and 23rd-place finishes. Holt said experience and hard work is what led the boys team to the win.

“Many of the boys we have are returners from last year, and their times have improved,” she said. “The guys in the top five all competed at the Regional Meet last year. Our sixth and seventh runners did not, but have been a part of the program for a while and improved. They started out this season competing against bigger schools, and now, competing against 1-4A schools, are having a lot of success. Some of our guys didn’t run as fast as they had in previous meets, but they ran tough and stuck it out. Lampasas ran really well at the meet, so it was close, but they hung on and pulled it out.”

This is the boys team’s second straight District Title, and Holt believes it starts with runners seeing success from the past.

“A lot of the kids have seen or remember the past success of other teams and want that for themselves,” she said. “Since I have coached them, the boys team had never won a Regional Championship. They did that last year, and now they want to do it again. They didn’t have a good race last year at State, so they want to get back and do better this year. The guys have a really good shot to repeat as Regional Champions if they all run good together.”

This year, the 4A schools will run in the afternoon at the Regional Championship, which could provide an added challenge for Liberty Hill after competing early in the morning all season.

“Since I have coached them we have never had to run the last two races at regionals and this year the 4A division is the last two races,” she said. “Our race will be in the afternoon this year We have not had an afternoon race all season so I hope this cold front coming through will stick around so it won’t be too hot. We will get there Sunday and walk the course. All the kids ran it last year so it is nothing new. The only new thing for us will be the time we are running so we will see how much the heat affects us on that race. A district championship was always our goal and they accomplished it. It’s great to see them happy and celebrating with their teammates and families. We got goal number one done, now on to goal number two.”

Both teams will travel to Huntsville on Monday, Oct. 23 to run in the 4A Regional Cross Country Meet. The varsity girls will run at 1:50 p.m., and the boys will follow at 2:15 p.m.

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