LHHS runners prep for State XC meet

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By Lance Catchings

For the 10th consecutive year, Liberty Hill High School will be represented in some fashion at the UIL State Cross Country meet on Saturday.

This year it will be the 2018 27-4A district champion boys team and standout individual runner Aubrey Caskey on the girls’ side. Head coach Kim Holt said the program is excited for another opportunity to represent on the biggest stage.

“Our spirits are high headed into this week,” she said. “All teams did well at district and the boys ran exceptional at regionals. Our girls team only missed it by one and they really wanted to be there. They were sad they won’t get to go but happy with how they competed.”

Caskey was the biggest turnaround of the girls’ cross-country season. Improving from her place as one of slower runners on the team, in one summer Caskey became the team leader. Holt said her confidence is high headed into the state meet.

“Aubrey is confident in how she competed at regionals,” she said. “I don’t think she expected to be that high up and qualify individually. She has lots of confidence right now and hopefully the nerves won’t get to her. We believe she has the chance to do well.”

Caskey will be the only runner from Liberty Hill at the girls’ starting line Saturday, but to face the run alone should not be much different than her previous races.

“This is the first time she will be competing without her teammates but when she normally runs she is out in front of them,” she said. “She will be fine in that aspect and she is looking good in workouts so far. She has not changed since the beginning of the season but instead she just keeps on keeping on.”

The boys team will compete with the same seven runners that took second place at the regional meet. They are training for a podium finish

“I’ve heard the boys say they know how we have finished at state the past two years,” Holt said. “We do not want to finish in the bottom, we want to finish in the top five or on the podium. They are confident in how well they did at regionals in region IV. Region IV is tough compared to region III and they competed well. We were right behind Progresso, so we come into the state meet with some confidence. They looked really good Monday morning at our workout, so I think we will do very well.”

Freshmen Gregory Miller and Jacob Russell have been a pleasant surprise this season and Holt said they’re contributions have been monstrous.

“It is really good that we have freshmen running in this meet because that will give them a great opportunity going forward in our program,” she said. “It is not often we have freshman running in these positions. Gabriel Diaz is one that comes to mind that has recently done it. They get confidence and experience while they are young and next year they know what to expect.”

The state meet will be Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. Liberty Hill had a meet scheduled on the course the past two seasons but both were canceled due to weather.

“We have not run at Old Settlers Park the past two years but some of the guys have run it in the past,” she said. “We will take them to walk the course on Friday. We don’t want anyone to psych themselves out. I think the biggest thing is to control the nerves.”

Holt makes a point to tell her runners this stage is one where they belong.

“Before the race I usually tell the team there are only 16 teams that qualified, and they should feel proud they are one of the best 4A teams in the state,” she said. “I tell them that they deserve to be there and to do their best. I tell them to go out and see where you are amongst the best in the state. I want them to realize they are one of the best 16 teams in the state.”

There are four seniors running for Liberty Hill this year and they have all been instrumental to the program’s success.

“Aubrey Caskey, Cade Cole, Sam and Nick Roth are my four seniors,” Holt said. “This is the most seniors we’ve had running recently. They have stuck around and worked hard, especially moving up to region IV this year. A lot of them have been leaders on this team so we will miss them. Cross country is a sport where everyone gets excited at the start of the race and as you’re in the race your body is in pain. It is a lot of work and the workouts are usually the hardest thing. It is fun to see a kid put in the work and then hit a personal record at a meet and have a good race. That is what I love to see. I love to see them happy and reaching their goals. They do have to be a little crazy to get up early and do those workouts. I think once they get through the pain they think it’s fun and that’s what makes cross country special.”

Caskey will run in the 4A girls state championship race at 1:20 p.m. The boys team will run in the 4A boys state championship race at 1:50 p.m. Runners for the boys team are: Kevin Berber, Gabriel Diaz, Nick Roth, Gregory Miller, Jacob Russell, Sam Roth and Cade Cole.

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