By LANCE CATCHINGS
Both Liberty Hill varsity cross country teams dominated at the Salado Tenroc Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 21, with first-place team finishes in the varsity division.
Liberty Hill Head Cross Country Coach Kim Holt was impressed with her teams’ performances, particularly against their district competition that was present at the meet.
“There were some teams from our district at this meet and we got to see how we measured up against them,” Holt said. “The course was pretty tough, but the kids ran really strong.”
Alex Albarran led the varsity boys’ team with a third-place finish and a time of 17:59.1. Gabriel Diaz (18:12), Cade Cole (18:58), Nick Roth (19:01), Walker Gilbert (19:22.7) and Sam Roth (19:23.7) all medaled by finishing in the top 15, as well.
“The boys ran really well,” Holt said. “We had six medal in the top 15 runners this meet, which is a great job by them on a very tough course.”
Eliana Luna led the varsity girls’ team with a fifth-place finish and a time of 13:48.1. Hannah Brown (13:50.7), Brooke Howard (13:51.7), Hannah Johnson (13:53.3), Kennedy Coleman (13:59.2) and Madison Sears (14:05.7) all medaled for the team, as well.
“We had several girls medal in the top 15, so it was just a great day, overall, for us,” Holt said. “I think the girls are really doing well because they are trying to finish close to their teammates. We’ve had a different first runner almost every meet, so they are definitely pushing themselves and each other. This meet it was Eliana Luna and last meet it was Hannah Brown, so they are consistent in the top five finishers, but we do not have a definite number one. Eliana was having some tightness in her calves last week, but she is doing much better now. They are working hard together and they want to do well.”
Midway through the season, Holt is pleased with the progress both teams have made after competing in five meets.
“As a whole, I’m excited about where they are right now,” she said. “We only have a few weeks until the district meet, so I told them they passed a little test in Salado. The only district team we have not seen run yet is Llano. We are really excited about where they are right now. They are working hard and have looked good in the meets that we have run in.”
This Saturday, Sept. 30, the Panthers compete in another monstrous meet in Round Rock. Holt believes the diverse competition at such a big meet is great for bringing out the best in her athletes.
“Saturday, we have a huge meet in Round Rock McNeil, and it is the same course they run for State,” Holt said. “All our kids have run that course before, and it’s still a practice meet, so there isn’t too much pressure. They know what to prepare for, and in those meets getting a good start is important. If you get stuck in the back, you’ll never get out. They know from past experience what to expect. We tell them to get out quick, and we work on 200-meter sprints in practice to get them accustomed to getting out ahead of the pack. You never know in huge races like that what is going to happen. Some of these schools we don’t normally run against, so we get to see different teams and see how we measure up against those teams.”
The cross country program, like most Liberty Hill athletics, has high expectations. Holt said her athletes know what is expected of them, and they all strive to uphold that legacy.
“From years past, the kids want to do well because the teams before them have done well,” she said. “We tell them we want to be good. Most of the kids have been in the program and they know the expectations. They want to do well, and when they feel like they don’t do well, you can tell. They know what we expect of them, but I think they also expect more from themselves. That comes from being at Liberty Hill where the programs have been successful.”
The Panthers’ next meet, hosted by McNeil High School, will take place at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock this Saturday, Sept. 30.