STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
One moment symbolized the fight of the Marble Falls High School cross-country team at the District 17-5A meet Oct. 12 in Pflugerville.
It happened when junior Bryer Atkinson fell after stepping into a hole during the boys varsity race.
But instead of letting that give him an excuse, Atkinson pushed himself through the pain to finish in the top 20. His effort proved crucial as it helped the Mustangs place third overall as a team and send them to the Class 5A Region III meet Oct. 22 for the first time since 2010. The meet takes place at the Kate Barr Ross Memorial Park, 486 Texas 75 in Huntsville.
After the race, Atkinson expressed his displeasure with himself to head coach Chris Schrader, who simply encouraged the runner.
“When you run like you did, and give one hundred percent, that’s all I can ask,” Schrader recalled saying. “He didn’t see (the hole). It was covered in grass. I told him, ‘You develop every day. Look at the changes between August and September.’ He never gave up, and stayed to it.”
The boys varsity team had 80 points led by sophomore Austin Flores, who clocked 16 minutes 21.6 seconds for ninth overall.
“Flores ran what you call the ‘Hail Mary’ in football,” Schrader said. “He stepped up and ran great.”
Senior Alex Castelan placed 14th in 16:56.9, Atkinson was 16th in 17:04.6, senior Devonte Torns finished 18th overall in 17:14.4, and freshman Jet Zurita was 23rd overall in 18:03.1.
The Lady Mustangs also finished third in the team standings paced by sophomore Bailey Goggans, who placed second in 18:19.7 to set a school record. Junior Ambrie Lizcano placed sixth in 18:49.3, junior Jaden Johnson finished 10th in 19:19.4, sophomore Jennifer Arreguin was 21st in 21:33.1, and junior Ashley Rios placed 26th in 22:29.1.
The third-place finish puts the Lady Mustangs in the Class 5 Region III meet as well.
The coach praised Goggans, Lizcano, and Johnson for their top-10 finishes.
“That’s significant,” Schrader said of the finishes. “That’s the good part. I think that’s what was more impressive. The girls didn’t surprise me.”
Coaches have asked the runners to put in the work but have been strategic in how they’ve done it, mixing in long runs, sprints, and other techniques to ensure the athletes performed at their best when they had to.
Schrader’s advice to his runners before the district meet was simple.
“Pick who you’re going to challenge and hang on to them for as long as you can,” he said.
Schrader credited his runners for their determination and grit.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said of the finishes. “If somebody had a bad day, the others had to step up.”
Cedar Park High was the boys district champion after sweeping the top five places and scoring 15 points. Leander Rouse finished second with 79 points.
The Cedar Park girls took the team title with 22 points followed by Rouse with 57 points.