Donwerth, Panther boys qualify for cross country regionals


By Scott Akanewich

When the Class 5A Region 4 cross country championships take place in Corpus Christi on Nov. 9, Liberty Hill will be represented in the form of senior Ayanna Donwerth for the girls and the Panthers’ boys’ squad.

Passage south was booked for the group of runners with their respective performances at the District 25 meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on Oct. 30.

Donwerth crossed the finish line in the girls’ varsity race in a time of 18:24.20, which was good enough for a third-place showing behind winner Isabel Conde De Frankenberg of Cedar Park, who ran 17:18.80 and Georgetown’s Mckenzie Bailey, who was runner-up in 18:12.50.

According to head coach Kim Holt, Donwerth is on track for a return trip to the state championships after a 22nd-place finish last season when the Panthers were still competing at the Class 4A level, as long as she continues to do what got her to this point in the season.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the other districts, but if she continues to compete how she has been then I think she has a good chance to make it to state,” said Holt. “I’m sure she would like to have her team on the starting line with her for support, but I feel like she’ll be ready to compete. She’s a senior and has many years of experience.”

Donwerth will not have her teammates beside her after Liberty Hill’s girls’ team finished third in the six-team field with 92 points behind champions Georgetown (26) and second-place Cedar Park (54).

Ironically, the four-point advantage the Panthers enjoyed over fourth-place Leander would’ve normally been enough for them to move on to regionals.

However, due to health restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only the top two teams from district were allowed to move on the regionals instead of the usual three, but Holt views it as something her team can use as a motivational springboard moving forward.

“The girls are disappointed they don’t get to go to regionals, but we think they competed really well in the new 5A district by finishing third,” she said. “This gives them a goal to work for next year – to finish higher as a team.”

Following Donwerth in the finishing order for Liberty Hill were Daisy Anaya (19th, 20:05.10), Avery Holland (27th, 20:43.90), Natalie Roth (28th, 20:49.50), Emma Hiebner (30th, 21:04.50), Angela Mena (31st, 21:17.20) and Tyler Goode (44th, 24:27.50).

On the boys’ side, Liberty Hill finished second in the team standings with 62 points to winners Cedar Park, who posted 47, but easily outdistanced third-place Leander (73).

Senior Isaiah De La Garza led the way for the Panthers with a seventh-place showing in a time of 16:16.30, with teammate Jacob Russell in eighth at 16:18.50.

De La Garza’s time was a new personal best, which simply highlighted the boys’ overall success even more, said Holt.

“We’re very proud of what the boys accomplished in the new 5A district,” she said. “Isaiah had a great race and it was one of the best races he has had all season. The boys overall had a great race as a team.”

Senior Cade Johnson was next for Liberty Hill in 11th place with a time of 16:23.60, followed by teammates Caden Glenn (17th, 16:41.10), Cayden Branch (19th, 16:42.70), Ryan McCarn (32nd, 17:18.30) and Brandon Colicher (39th, 17:49.10).

Cedar Park’s Jack Woods won the boys’ varsity race in 15:52.10.

Another bright spot for the Purple- and-Gold on the day was the performance of the Panthers’ boys’ freshman squad, who won their competition with 16 points, taking four of the top six spots, including winner Anthony Barreras, who won in 17:26.30, runner-up Toby Rimann (17:33.40), Jackson Hope (fifth, 18:06.70 and Luke Lande (sixth, 18:34.10).

Holt said the freshman race provided an opportunity for all of her rookie runners to gain valuable experience.

“This year we had a lot of freshman boys, so with the UIL limiting each race to seven runners we wanted more kids to participate,” she said. “So, we put together seven freshman runners and we thought they would do very well and they did. We’re very proud of them.”

The Class 5A state championships are scheduled for Nov. 23 in Round Rock and whether or not her team has any runners participating, Holt is happy with how her entire squad performed all season long as a Class 5A team for the first time in school history.

“We feel really good about how the kids did in the new 5A district,” she said. “They competed well and they came away with many individual and team medals. We’re very proud of all the runners this year.”