Burnet freshman Hudson Bennett turned heads on the way to the finish line of the Class 4A Region IV meet where was the regional champion. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
One Burnet County high school cross country team and three area individual runners qualified for the state meet thanks to their finishes at regional meets October 28.
The Marble Falls High School boys cross country team made history as the first Mustangs squad to qualify for the state meet. They finished fourth overall at the Class 5A Region III meet in Huntsville.
Burnet High School freshman Hudson Bennett and Marble Falls junior Bailey Goggans were gold medals winners in their respective regional meets.
Bennett won the Class 4A Region IV meet in Corpus Christi in 16 minutes 21.93 seconds, while in Huntsville, Goggans won her race in 18:57.50. Marble Falls senior Ambrie Lizcano was 22nd in 20:32.30 to also qualify for the state meet.
Marble Falls head coach Chris Schrader praised his runners for their efforts, noting the top athletes weren’t at their physical best. But that didn’t stop them from competing.
“They all did it,” he said. “The rest of the kids – they ran like a team.”
That was especially true for the boys, he said.
Senior Bryer Atkinson, who sets the pace for the Mustangs, was sick. Seeing their teammate was running despite not feeling in tip-top shape empowered the others, Schrader said.
“The kids who Bryer is normally ahead of, they ran right there with him,” he said. “Everybody did a good job.”
Junior Austin Flores was the first Mustang to cross the finish line in 16:49.90 for 11th place. Junior Shea Johnson was 18th in 17:03.10; and sophomore Samuel Valdez was 40th in 17:45.40. Atkinson finished 43rd in 17:49.10, and sophomore Erick Nickowski was 55th in 18:03.50.
As happy as they are, Schrader said the Mustangs are just now realizing how good they can be.
“I think we have a lot more potential,” the coach said. “But they have to buy into it more. If they decide they’re going to, they’ll be the cat’s meow. They have to step up to a new level of training. They have to want to do it more than I do.”
Schrader also praised the Lady Mustangs for their finishes. Their strategy was to stay with the first pack and then strike with 800 meters to go.
Lizcano passed about 15 runners in the final 800 meters to qualify for the state meet. Goggans was running second in the final 800 meters then found her next gear and powered her way to the finish line for the win.
Schrader noted Lizcano was always a physically gifted runner. His challenge to her was to believe it, too.
“Ambrie is slowly climbing the confidence ladder,” he said. “She picked off a lot of people.”
Goggans, who has been battling an injury, could have easily qualified for state as the silver medalist, but it’s not in her to concede, the coach said.
“She did a beautiful job,” he said. “We’re being very careful with her. It was up to her if she wanted to run. She hates to lose. She didn’t lose her focus.”
Burnet cross country head coach Roy Kiser also commended his two regional runners, especially Bennett, noting they had a plan in place before the race started.
That plan was for the Bulldog to stay with the lead pack before making his move after the 2-mile mark. But Zapata senior Adan Jonjuitud had a similar plan and kicked it up a gear before Bennett could. That forced the Bulldog to change his plan a little, Kiser said.
“Hudson had to get around people,” the coach said. “When he rounded the last corner, Hudson was forty yards ahead and had to finish. His plan was to draft off the front group. He had to pick a certain spot. He made some small moves.
Burnet junior Rose Flores was 37th in 13:07.37 on the 2-mile course to end her season.
“She was a joy to coach,” Kiser said. “She’s a solid runner. She gave her best effort. I’m proud all the way around.”
The state meet is Saturday, November 8, at Old Settlers Park, 3300 Palm Valley Blvd. in Round Rock.
The Class 4A boys race begins at 12:30 p.m. followed by the Class 5A girls race at 1:10 p.m. and the Class 5A boys race at 1:50 p.m.