XC girls take 1st, boys take 2nd at Wilco Relays

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By Lance Catchings

Both Liberty Hill cross country teams opened the season with top two finishes at the Battle for Wilco Park Relays hosted by Leander High School Aug. 17. Both the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams will be striving to get back to the state championship meet this season and Leander was the first stop on the schedule.

The Wilco Park Relays are set up as a two-team two-mile relay race, so it is a bit different than a traditional cross country meet but a great way for the runners to get back in the groove early in the season. The girls’ team came out strong and took home first place in the small school division, which consisted of teams between 1-4A.

Head Coach Kim Holt was very pleased with her runners after the meet.

“I felt the girls’ team ran well,” Holt said. “Compared to last year, our times ran about the same for the first meet.

“Aubrey Caskey, who ran this summer, was two minutes faster in her time at this meet so she did well. We had some freshmen place in the top 10 for us because we timed our runners individually. It was a little hot and muggy, but for the conditions, everyone ran well. We had no complaints of soreness, so most of the runners felt good headed into it. As a starting off point, they competed well for it being the first meet of the year.”

Last season, the girls’ team made it to state without a lead runner. With the team moving to a new region this year they are happy to have someone emerging on the forefront to take that role. Caskey led the girls’ team with a 13:15 in the two-mile run.

“Caskey really impressed us at this meet,” she said.

“We also had three freshmen in the top 10. Lindsey Miller, who is a junior, finished in the top four so we were happy with all those runners. Last year, we were missing a top runner on the girls’ side and I’m referring to one that consistently was in the front. Caskey is kind of emerging as that runner this season in the workouts and through the first meet. Hopefully, she will continue to improve, which will be good for our team because we will benefit from having that top runner.”

The boys’ cross-country team finished in second place and had standout performances from many of its top runners as well. Consistent improvement is the name of the game in cross country and many of the Panthers showed that hard work pays off.

“The boys finished second, but we felt they competed well,” she said.

“Looking at the times from last year, almost every runner got faster. We have a group of boys that are seconds away from each other time wise and that is what you want in cross country. Cade Cole was our number one boy this meet, and he ran an 11:08, which really impressed us.”

The Panthers are hungry to compete this season and there is no shying away from competition on the team. Cole is one of the top returners this year and Holt said there is a lot on his shoulders.

“Looking at Cade’s 11:08 he improved by 20 seconds from last year,” she said. “He is emerging as a leader and he wants to win. He talks about it with the guys and the team really feeds off him. We feel like he will be a good leader for us this year.

“Gabe Diaz was our second runner, and Sam Roth was our third boy. Roth has really improved this year compared to last season.”

This Friday, both teams will compete at the Vista Ridge Cross Country Meet. The varsity boys will run at 8:30 a.m., followed by the varsity girls at 9 a.m.

“Vista Ridge is a challenging course there is no doubt,” Holt said.

“We have been increasing their mileage to help them get prepared, but this Friday will be their first five kilometer race this season. There are a few freshmen that will be running the five kilometers as well and this will be there first time ever unless they’ve done it outside of school.”

One aspect that makes the Vista Ridge meet tougher for the varsity boys is they are not separated by divisions. Even so, the most important thing for the Liberty Hill coaching staff is to see how their runners compete in their first full meet.

“At this meet they are all grouped together from 1A-6A, so the boys will have to compete with some larger schools,” Holt said.

“Heading into this meet there will be around 38 teams, so we just want to go out and see how we compete. There will be some 4A schools there and we want to see how we measure up early in the season. This meet we will also be evaluating where our top 10 varsity athletes finish. We will be looking at who is our top runner and who are our top seven. The kids are doing well and working hard so we are looking to have another good meet this Friday.”

The cross country teams’ next meet following Vista Ridge will be Sept. 8 when they host the Liberty Hill Cross Country meet.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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