By LANCE CATCHINGS
The Liberty Hill Cross Country team had a strong showing at their home meet on Saturday, Sept. 9. The varsity boys’ team took top honors in their division with a first-place finish and the varsity girls placed third.
With more than 1,000 high school and junior high school athletes in attendance, Liberty Hill Head Coach Kim Holt said she was proud of her team and the success of the meet, overall.
“I think everything has run smooth with the meet so far,” Holt said on Saturday morning. “We actually have 1,050 athletes competing today. We were up here all day yesterday lining the course and getting ready, so it takes lots of preparation to pull this off. The varsity boys ran awesome today. We had a pack of four running together for about two miles, so they performed very well today in winning first place. This is only their second 5k of the year, so they are going to continue to improve.”
Junior Cade Cole, who finished sixth with a time of 17:26.40, said he felt good about the overall performance of the team.
“It was a harder race this week, but we ran well as a team,” Cole said. “Staying together as a team is what we aim for every week. The course today was pretty flat, although towards the end there was a bit of an incline, but I felt it went pretty quick. Our top five today was pretty solid, and everyone ran 17:38 and under, which is strong. We hope to go back to State this year, and that starts with working hard now.”
Junior Walker Gilbert, who finished ninth with a time of 17:38.30, said he reached his goal of running under 18 minutes, but went on to say that he knows he can improve.
“Today we really tried to get out and push the pace,” Gilbert said. “We tried not to let groups get too far ahead and that helped us this meet. When you see another team yelling and communicating you know you have to keep pushing yourself. With the amount of coaches and athletes out here the start line can be intimidating, but once you start running you can settle in to your race. My personal goal was to run under 18 minutes and I did it but there is definitely more room for improvement.”
Alex Albarran finished second for the Panthers with a time of 16:47.50, Gabriel Diaz finished fourth with a time of 16:53.90, and Nick Roth finished fifth with a time of 17:00.40.
Hannah Brown, one of the girls’ top runners, did not compete for the varsity team due to an illness, but in true Liberty Hill fashion, the team went forward with a “next girl up” mentality.
“The varsity girls ran well,” Holt said. “The girls are adjusting to how they run this year. We are focusing on finishing more together. They finished third, but they brought their times down and that is what we are looking for. Hopefully, we will get Hannah Brown back and we will continue to train hard and improve our times each week. Our district meet is October 13th, so that is not too far away.”
Sophomore Hannah Johnson led the Lady Panthers, who competed in a 3,200-meter run, with a 13th place finish and a time of 12:53.80. Johnson, Eliana Luna, Kennedy Coleman, Madison Sears and Brooke Howard were the top five Lady Panthers in the meet. Coleman finished 14th, overall, with a time of 12:58.40, Luna finished 16th with a time of 13:01.80, Sears finished 18th with a time of 13:08.20, and Howard finished 25th with a time of 13:28.30.
“I’m really proud of myself, but also proud of how my team ran today,” Johnson said. “I think it’s easier to run your race when you are with the group. We all cheer for each other while we are running and try to motivate each other. The course today was fun and they changed it up a little from last year, which was nice. Running here at home in front of friends and family made me push harder, because they were all watching.”
Coleman was proud of her team’s performance, as well, but feels that there is still plenty of work to be done.
“We ran good today, but we still need to get better,” Coleman said. “We all still need to drop a little time as a group. The goal is to all be under 13 minutes by the end of the season. If that happens we will all be near the top and getting low scores. Our focus this week in practice will be to just get faster and drop our time.”
Liberty Hill’s next meet will take place in Cedar Park this Saturday, Sept. 16.