By LANCE CATCHINGS
After their last meet was cancelled due to rain, the Liberty Hill varsity boys’ cross country team followed up their first-place finish in Salado with another first-place finish on Oct. 6, in Lampasas at the Battlin’ Badger XC Invitational. The varsity girls had a strong showing, as well, with a second-place finish, overall.
Liberty Hill Head Coach Kim Holt was very pleased with how both teams competed.
“Overall, I felt we ran really well as a team,” Holt said. “The boys won and the girls finished second, but in that second-place finish beat all of the 4A schools that competed. The girls did not get to race against Llano, because the coach ran them in the 5k, so the first time we get to see them will be at the district meet Friday.”
Nick Roth led the boys’ team with a third-place finish, overall, and a time of 16:57.57. Alex Albarran (17:02.63) and Gabriel Diaz (17:05.9) also had top ten finishes for the Panthers. Cade Cole (17:26.89) and Walker Gilbert (17:59.19) rounded out the top five finishers for the team. Walker Gilbert (17:59.19), Jordan Rocha (17:59.21), Sam Roth (17:59.30) and Kaleb Lorance (17:59.46) all had impressive runs for the Panthers, as well.
The team heads back to Lampasas for the 19-4A district cross country meet on Friday, Oct. 13, and Holt expects both teams to finish near the top.
“I think the boys looked really good,” she said. “Nick Roth ran a time of 16:58, which is the first time this season he ran that fast. He was our number one boy this week. Overall, they have made great progress this season, and we are really pleased with how they have performed so far. The varsity boys should win unless something unexpected happens. There is really not a group in our district that has been close to them. There are some kids out there for other teams that are fast, but I told them to just get the lowest score that they can. Previously, in the bigger meets when we were competing with the bigger schools, it could affect their confidence a little, but it worked out good with back-to-back wins right before we head into the district meet.”
Madison Sears finished in 11th place, overall, to lead the girls’ team with a time of 13:11.42. Hannah Johnson (13:14.13), Eliana Luna (13:28.50), Brooke Howard (13:30.86) and Hannah Brown (13:34.05) rounded out the top five finishers for the Lady Panthers. Kennedy Coleman (13:45.57), Aubrey Caskey (14:08.23), Mackenzie Coleman (14:11.31), Molly Cowart (14:31.21) and Karlie Bye (15:17.02) also competed well for the Lady Panthers.
“I told the varsity girls to not be afraid to push themselves to the limit for the district meet,” Holt said. “There was some competition there against Fredericksburg and the others in our district at the Lampasas meet. They have to get out and compete, and they did that. The girls focus on what we ask them to, and because of that, they do well.”
Before the district meet, Holt said it was important to let her student-athletes get some rest so they have fresh legs.
“Normally, we do a long run early in the week, but we took some miles off this week to keep their legs fresh,” she said. “They won’t lift weights all week as we try to get them some rest. It’s good that they don’t have school Monday or Tuesday, so they can get some rest at home. Hopefully, their legs will feel better and fresh on race day at the district meet.”
Liberty Hill will be looking to repeat as district champions on Friday. Holt said the key to long-term success in a program is commitment from the athletes and for the kids to have fun.
“I think they want to win and they are competing,” she said. “We have a very family-type atmosphere. Sometimes, you hear that the practices are hard or they are early, but they get to the meets and they have fun. Many of them stay because of the family atmosphere and getting to improve. The practices are not fun, but we still have them coming out for more. We have team dinners every week, so they like hanging out together.”