LHHS performs well in first 5k of season

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The boys start of the Vista Ridge XC Invitational. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

The boys start of the Vista Ridge XC Invitational. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By KEITH SPARKS

The Panthers’ cross country teams ran in their first 5k meet of the season on Saturday, after running a relay the previous weekend. In fact, even the girls, who typically only run two miles at the 4A level, ran a 5k at the request of the Vista Ridge XC Invitational officials.

The varsity girls finished second out of eight, and the varsity boys finished fifth out of 10 teams. The JV boys finished third out of 11, and the JV girls finished with an “incomplete.”

Freshman Gabriel Diaz, running in his first-ever 5k meet, came in 26th out of 68 varsity runners. He finished with a time of 18:42.4, good for fourth on the Liberty Hill team. Head Coach Kim Holt expects Diaz to improve week-to-week as he becomes stronger and more experienced with each meet.

“He was very successful at the middle school level,” Holt said. “That’s his first time to run a 5k competing in cross country, so I thought he did really well. The first meet we had was a relay meet, where everybody ran two miles, so this is the first time a lot of those freshman boys have competed at 5k.”

Clayton Nance, still in the process of recovering from his motorcycle crash that resulted in a knee injury two years ago, ran the fastest time of any Panther. Nance finished 13th, overall, with a time of 17:55.7, which was good for first on the team.

“He’s doing great,” Holt said. “It was a really hard course. It had lots of inclines, and hills, and turns and things. Talking to a lot of the other coaches, some of those other kids that usually run 16s, they ran 17s at this meet. It was really encouraging to hear that, because we’re really unsure what Clayton Nance can do now, for a 5k, because last year, he didn’t really run that much, because he was injured. I was really excited to see how well he did.”

Alex Albarran, a junior varsity runner who Coach Holt said would likely move up to varsity within the next few meets, depending on his performance, came in second at the junior varsity level, good for first on the Panthers’ JV team. His time, had he been running varsity, would have been good for fourth on the team and 29th, overall. Albarran finished with a time of 19:12.7.

“He’s doing what he needs to do,” Holt said. “We’ll move him up to varsity. We looked at the times, and if we had bumped him up, I think Coach Boren said we might have moved up to fourth with him on the team. We knew he’d be up there, but because of the circumstances he needed to run on JV last week.”

The Vista Ridge XC Invitational initially had a two-mile division, which is where conference 1A through 4A girls typically compete, but come time for the meet, there were not enough teams to compete in the two-mile division. At the request of meet officials, the Liberty Hill girls competed in a 5k, something that many had never done competitively. Coach Holt noted that the experience will come in handy for the younger runners if they move up to 5A within the next two years, due to the fact that conference 5A and 6A girls are required to run 5ks.

“I was a little iffy,” Holt said, “because when you tell them, they usually run two miles, they’ll freak out. The distance didn’t bother them, but like I said, it’s a really tough course with those inclines and things. I was excited to hear that distance didn’t bother them. Some of them are sophomores, so if they run cross country in two years and we move up to 5A, they’ll have to run 5ks.”

Freshman Hannah Johnson, to the surprise of Coach Holt, ended up running the fifth best time on Liberty Hill’s varsity team, good for 19th, overall, with a time of 23:03.8. Senior Mckynzie King finished fourth, overall, and first on the team with a time of 20:28.3.

“When she started, I was a little unsure,” Holt said regarding Johnson’s performance. “She didn’t start very fast, she started in the back, so you’re kind of wondering ‘Are they trying to save too much, since it’s a 5k?’ but she came out and kind of attacked the race after midway, and she bumped up and made it all the way up there to our fifth runner. I was really encouraged by that.”

Liberty Hill’s cross country teams will compete in a meet at Liberty Hill High School on Saturday, Sept. 10 after having a week off due to Labor Day Weekend.

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