TOMBALL — A quartet of runners from Cinco Ranch were the top varsity finishers among Katy-area schools, but duos from Tompkins and Katy High School also earned medals at the season-opening Cypress Cross Country Relays held at Spring Creek Park on August 10.
While the meet served as the official opener for the cross country season, most of the area coaches said they used it as a higher-stakes speed practice day and didn't keep track of times, because of the relays' unique format. Runners did two miles each, alternating after each mile, which allowed for rests. The top 10 pairs of boys and girls received medals.
In the girls' varsity division, Kingwood took first of 11 teams with 22 points. Katy High School was in fifth with 40 points, and Cinco Ranch took sixth with 44 points. In the boys’ varsity division, Cinco Ranch took first of 13 teams with 21 points. Tompkins finished second with 23 points, followed by Atascocita, Bridgeland and Stratford to round out the top five. Katy finished sixth with 50 points.
Among Katy ISD schools, Cinco Ranch placed the two highest pairs of runners. Junior Kassem Karouni and senior Alex Norman took second place in the boys' varsity race, and sophomore Natalia Corser and junior Sophie Atkinson finished in third place in the girls' varsity race.
Brandon Beasley, the coach of the Cinco Ranch boys' team, was happy with its performance, noting that “the boys ran well.”
“In a sense, they're doing two-mile repeats,” he said. “It's good work and they get to be around other people. When you're trying to train all summer by yourself, it's good to get out against other people.”
Beasley said the goal of the team this year is to make it from regional to state, which the Cougars narrowly missed last year.
“Every year, our ultimate goal is to get to the state meet,” he said. “Last year, we were fifth at regionals, the first team not to make it. So, I hope this team can build off of that, but obviously our district is going to be challenging.”
Cinco Ranch girls' coach Dana Mathis was happy that a couple of her girls earned medals, but she also considered the meet more of an enhanced practice situation.
“For a couple of the girls, they've been running all summer, so this is more of just a workout,” she said. The Cougars return most of their squad from 2018, and Mathis said they're looking to make another push this coming year.
“Our goal is, team-wise, to make it to regionals and then make it state,” she said. “We've got some pretty good runners, we've got a very good top two in Heidi Nielson and Sophie Atkinson, and then we've got the rest of our returners ... We're just looking to make that push from district into regionals.”
The Tompkins boys' team was well-represented by junior Gavin Saacke and sophomore Connor Augustine, who finished in the top four. Tompkins coach Walt Yarrow said he liked how his young team ran, noting that they didn't taper or attempt to peak for the relays.
“I'm super happy with our varsity so far. We're a young team, and we graduated five of our top seven last year, so we're counting on a lot of younger kids this year,” he said. “[This meet] favors the high interval, speed-driven and focused teams, so it can be deceiving sometimes, the results. But it's a true workout and a true cross country race. I wanted to see race effort and race tactics.”
Yarrow said he didn't have a specific target in mind for his team, because of all of the new runners in new roles.
“I'm hoping we get better every week,” he said. “We're kind of at the bottom of the mountain and we're climbing back up.”
Also making a strong showing at the relays, in the top 10 and with two of the biggest squads at the meet, were the Katy boys' and girls' squads. Audrey Witham and Olivia Einarrson combined for a time of 23:31, good for fifth place. Right on their heels were Belle Rubio and Hannah Blake, taking sixth place with a time of 23:35. For the boys, Lorenzo Orozco and Connor Wood combined for a time of 20:20, earning an eighth-place medal.
Jim Darcey, the school's director of cross country, said that each team's goal was just steady, continued improvement.
“Really, we just try to focus on ourselves,” he said. “I know it sounds cliché, but we just want to focus on the best we can be. We work hard every day to get stronger.”
Darcey said they held a couple runners that weren't 100 percent healthy out of the relays, but for the others, the competition was a welcome “break in the monotony” of the hot summer workouts.
“This is kind of the kick-off to say, 'Hey, this is what it's like to race a little bit,'” he said.
Jason Reed, the coach for the Katy boys' team, added, “We saw a lot of competitiveness, which is what we wanted. They showed a lot of effort today, and I thought they did well. Our goal is to get to the state meet. We haven't been there in a couple years, so we just need to get stronger every day to achieve that.”