STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Marble Falls High School head cross country coach Chris Schrader summed up the Class 5A Region III-qualifying performances of the girls and boys varsity teams in five words.
“I loved what I saw Friday morning,” he said.
The two teams each had runners step up in big ways to ensure the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs, who some believe compete in the toughest Class 5A district in the state, finished second and third, respectively, at the District 17-5A meet October 18 at Cedar Park High School.
The boys team improved from its third-place finish a year ago and did so without top runner senior Bryer Atkinson, who was unable to perform at his best due to an illness.
“Bryer was sick but didn’t whimper one minute,” Schrader said. “He stepped up and gave me all he could and pulled his weight. (Sophomore) Samuel Valdez tore it apart.”
Junior Austin Flores paced the Mustangs with a seventh-place finish in 16 minutes 16.5 seconds, two places better than last year when he finished in 16:21.60.
Junior Shea Johnson crossed the finish line 10th in 16:24.60, which is a 2:32 improvement, Schrader said.
“If Shea continues his hard work ethic, I can see him making it into the state meet on his own merits,” Schrader said.
Atkinson was 11th overall in 16:24.09, up six spots from 2018, when he finished in 17:04. Valdez was 13th in 16:35.9, which is a 2:04 improvement from last season.
Sophomore Jett Zurita finished 15th in 16:56.1, a 1:07 improvement from last year.
Schrader noted the Mustangs scored 54 points, which was 26 points fewer than last year.
“So our improvement was significant,” he said.
Cedar Park High School won the boys’ district championship by scoring 18 points thanks to six of the top 10 spots, including four Wolves finishing first through fourth.
The Lady Mustangs didn’t disappoint either. Junior Bailey Goggans and freshman Mila Dueshop did not compete because of injuries, but their absences only inspired their teammates.
Seniors Ambrie Lizcano and Jaden Johnson and junior Jennifer Arreguin led the way. Lizcano was fifth in 19:29.3, while Arreguin was ninth in 19:47.8, and Johnson was 10th in 20:06.
In 2018, Arreguin was 23rd in 21:33.
Senior Nataly Mata was 27th in 23.10, and sophomore Sayra Salazar turned in “a valuable 30th place” in 23:30.1.
“Nataly continues to improve,” Schrader said. “Our girls did what was needed. We stepped up when it was most needed.”
He added that if the injured Lady Mustangs can compete, they will run at the regional meet, which is Monday, October 28, at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Girls race at noon and boys race at 12:35 p.m. The top four teams advance to the Class 5A state meet in November.
The Marble Falls junior varsity boys team also nabbed second place.
Freshmen Chris Talamantez was ninth in 18:07.5, and Bryce Atkinson was 12th in 18:42.7. Sophomore Javier Castro was 13th in 18:52.4, while freshman Zy Kent was 27th in 20:30.5, and junior Rolando Bueno Anderson was 38th in 21:57.40.
“This bodes well for our team as these youngsters will battle for spots on next year’s varsity team,” the coach said. “A solid winter buildup will offset any inexperience, and they will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Three freshman girls competed in the junior varsity division: Alexandra Ellis was fifth in 22:27.3, Clarissa Mata was 12th in 24:09, and Kendra Vasquez was 24th in 34:48.
This was the first time the trio ran in a 5,000-meter race, Schrader added.