By LANCE CATCHINGS
Cross Country is not a sport for the faint of heart. The practices are early, the races are long and it takes a certain discipline to be successful. Liberty Hill Head Cross Country Coach Kim Holt, who is entering her 10th season, said it is the pride and hard work of the student-athletes that push the program forward.
“We started practice July 31st and have roughly 40 runners out so far,” Holt said. “Cross country is not an easy sport, but we’ve had some success over the past several years. I had a boys’ team make it to the State Finals in 2010 and again in 2011 where they took third. After that, the girls’ program took off and they have won four Regional Championships and made four State appearances since that time. Since I have been here, we have five Regional Championships between the two teams, and that draws students to come out. They want to be a part of that success.”
Last Friday, August 18, Liberty Hill’s cross country teams proved their coach right as they competed at the Leander Lion Cross Country Relays at Wilco Park. Several varsity and junior varsity Panthers medaled at the competition.
“This was not a traditional cross country meet,” Holt said. “We ran a relay where each team member ran two miles.”
The tandems of Kennedy Coleman/Luna, Madison Sears/Hannah Brown, and Molly Cowart/Hannah Johnson medaled for the varsity girls team. Teammates Cade Cole and Nick Roth medaled for the varsity boys.
In the junior varsity boys division, the duos of Parker Nance/Kevin Berber, and Milo Jacinto/Alberto Sandoval medaled in the relay while Colin Johnston medaled in the open division. The tandem of McKayla Shaw/Mckenzy Webb medaled for the junior varsity girls.
Holt attributes much of the Panthers’ success in cross country to the family atmosphere that has been created over the years.
“I think what the athletes have come to love in the past is the family atmosphere,” she said.
“The 6 a.m. practices are not fun, but the meets and hanging out with your teammates is fun. The camaraderie is what draws them, they see themselves improving and that makes them want to stay. Not everyone can do this sport.”
Holt has set the bar high for her runners since her arrival 10 years ago, and this season is no different.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on them, they know that we want to be successful,” she said.
“Since we (Liberty Hill) have been so successful in sports, they know people want to beat us.”
This year, the varsity boys team will be led by senior Alex Alvarran. Juniors Cade Cole and Nick Roth will also be counted on to make significant contributions.
“Last season Alex finished first at the District and Regional meet,” she said. “He didn’t have a great State meet, but hopefully we can get back there. If everything goes well I expect the boys team to win district and place first in regionals.”
Juniors Kennedy Coleman, Eliana Luna and Hannah Brown will lead the varsity girls team in action this season.
“Right now those three are our leaders but we have seven girls that work really hard. They all run close together and we are excited to see how they do,” she said
On Friday, August 25, the Panthers will compete against 25 other schools in the Vista Ridge Cross Country meet held at Vista Ridge High School. Coach Holt is looking for a competitive showing from her team against some of the larger schools in the greater Austin area.
“This week, the boys are competing in the 1-6A division, and we’re excited to see how they do against some quality opponents” she said. “It’s early in the year and we want them to peak at the right time, but this will be a great judge of where we are at early in the year with so many teams.”
The first race at the Vista Ridge Cross Country Meet is set to start at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.