STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The Burnet High School and Faith Academy of Marble Falls cross country teams began their seasons with impressive performances at the Florence Invitational on August 24, including one Bulldog bringing home gold.
The Class 4A Burnet boys team finished second overall, while the girls team was third. The Faith Academy Lady Flames were fifth.
“I am extremely proud of everyone’s effort on Saturday,” Burnet head coach Roy Kiser said. “The first meet brings quite a bit of nervousness, so it was good to get that one checked off the schedule. The kids were happy to see our teams towards the top, but it was a small meet, and we all know we have to work harder to close the gap between us and the first-place teams.”
The Bulldogs were paced by freshman Hudson Bennett, who clocked 16 minutes 56.49 seconds for a first-place finish in his debut. That time came close to breaking the course record of 16:56.30.
“I wasn’t really surprised by his place in the meet because I have seen his work ethic and natural ability, but it was a pleasure and somewhat of a relief to have him win his first high school meet,” Kiser said. “I’ve only had a handful of runners that want to put in the amount of miles that Hudson has run this summer.”
Freshman Jose Rodriguez was 14th in 19:40.64; senior Clayton Atkison was 16th in 19:58.82; freshman Moses DeLuna finished 27th in 20:41.62; and freshman Diego Chavira was 37th in 21:32.56.
The Lady Dawgs were led by junior Rose Flores, who was fifth in 13:16.35, followed by sophomore Maria Leon at 11th in 14:15.22 and sophomore Zoe Nicholl at 22nd in 15:05.47. Freshman Laney Rye was 29th in 15:20.79.
“Rose is a fierce competitor, and I appreciate how she leads our team,” Kiser said. “She is quiet and reserved, but she demands a lot from herself in practices and encourages her teammates to run towards the front of the pack with her.”
Kiser said he’s pleased by the number of runners on the team.
“We are adding kids to the program each week because of the positive vibe that cross country is getting around school,” he said. “The kids know that we can’t get the program back to where it has been in just one weekend, so they are working hard every day to achieve that goal.”
In the early 2000s, both girls and boys teams made state appearances with the Bulldogs placing third in 2003.
Faith Academy junior Tyler Kwan was the highest finisher for the Flames at 18th. He completed the course in 20:03.44 followed by sophomore Andrew Eppler at 46th in 22:18.12, junior Matthew Eppler at 54th in 24:09.17, and freshman Ian Johnson at 62nd in 29:34.61.
Head coach Steve McCannon commended the Flames, especially Kwan, who “competes and works hard.”
The boys team didn’t have enough runners to earn team standings.
The fifth-place Lady Flames were led by freshman Mackenzie Ahrett at 20th in 14:58.38 followed by freshman Isabel Lunsford at 21st in 14:58.75, senior Valerie Coffey at 23rd in 15:07.86, and junior Susanna Quinn at 25th in 15:10.60.
McCannon gave his runners credit for performing their best, no matter the classification. The small, private Christian school is a member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
“Next meet, we’ll see a good drop in all times,” he said. “The most important thing is learning how to race. We really want to run for a place.”
McCannon said this meet was a good one to start the season because it gave the runners an idea of where they stand.
“It’s always good to know where you’re at,” he said. “I like where we’re at. They are right about where I thought they’d be.”
Burnet’s next meet is the Pro Fit Invitational, which starts at 8:30 a.m. Friday, August 30, at Wilson Park, 2205 Curtis B. Elliot Drive in Temple.
Faith competes at Lometa High School, 100 Eighth St. in Lometa, at 3 p.m. Wednesday, September 18.