Poor course conditions muddy Lady Panthers’ season

The Lady Panthers finished 13th at state under flooded conditions. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

The Lady Panthers finished 13th at state under flooded conditions. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Lauren Jette

ROUND ROCK — The Lady Panthers cross country team has spent the last three months preparing for one race in particular by pounding courses that were usually dry, dusty paths over varied terrain.

What they got for the final race of the season was two miles of flooded mud pit at the State UIL meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock last Saturday, after heavy rain saturated the area the night before and early that morning.

With less than ideal conditions, the Lady Panthers fell to 13th place at the meet, a hugely disappointing finish for a team that was expected to place on the medal podium.

“It was not a good day,” said head coach Kim Holt.

“Under the conditions, the girls did the best they could. They did fall at the start and I heard many of them fell on the course more than once. They said other runners were falling all over the course. The conditions were horrible.”

Liberty Hill was looking to get off to a good start, but instead fell victims to the endless mud that sucked runners down.

“The start really hurt them because in those conditions if you have a bad start you can’t make up much ground because of all the mud and water,” Holt said.

Danielle Rimann battles heavy rain and mud. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Danielle Rimann battles heavy rain and mud. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

The poor start put senior Danielle Rimann in a position she’s never been in before, she said.

“It was pretty frustrating because I fell (in) the first two steps of the race,” she said. “In all my years of cross country, I’ve never fallen back. I’ve never been in the middle of the pack and I didn’t know what to do. It felt claustrophobic and then after that it was frustrating because every time you would try to go faster, your foot would slip or something. You weren’t even racing, you were just trying to stay up on your feet the whole time.”

Heavy rain turned an already damp course from even earlier rainfall into a mudfest.

“First of all, it was raining while we were warming up and it was raining when we got there,” Rimann said.

“The whole course was just a big mud pit and there was foot-deep water all over the place. While you were racing, you couldn’t get any traction on the bottom of your shoes because it was like you were skating or something because the ground was so saturated,” Rimann said.

Coach Holt said the conditions left her worried about the safety of her runners.

“I was concerned that someone could get hurt. I even saw some spectators falling as they were walking through the mud to watch the races,” Holt said.

“The girls were very upset after the race. I told them they did the best they could. The conditions were just horrible…I just feel bad for the competitors and that they had to compete in conditions like that.”

In an emailed statement to The Independent this week, UIL Media Coordinator Kate Yector said the course conditions were carefully monitored.

“Outdoor UIL events are always suspended in the event of lightning, which did not occur during the UIL Cross Country State Meet on Saturday. “Rain and mud are occasionally factors in the normal course of a cross country event and UIL staff, meet officials and park officials monitored the course and conditions throughout the day for safety,” Yector said.

The race was a frustrating end to an otherwise standout career for Rimann.

“It’s pretty upsetting just because you’ve trained since June for this one race,” she said.

“Getting there and especially with this being my last year and we were seeded to be pretty good and on the medal stand, it’s pretty frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do now. It’s something you have to live with and learn from.”

Junior Mckynzie King finished in 21st place in 12:50; Rimann finished in 88th place in 13:42; junior Emma Hofmann finished in 103rd place in 13:50; freshman Hannah Brown finished in 110th place in 13:57; freshman Eliana Luna finished in 119th place in 14:05; junior Emhely Guzman finished in 120th place in 14:06 and sophomore Courtney Peterson finished in 125th place in 14:15.