HUNTSVILLE — It was another strong set of performances for Katy area distance runners at the UIL Region III Preview Meet on Sept. 7 at Kate Barr Ross Park, as the girls and boys cross country teams from Seven Lakes and Tompkins placed individuals in the top 10 and finished in the top four as teams.

The meet offered teams an opportunity to run the course where the Region III meet will be held on Oct. 28.

The Seven Lakes girls nearly won their race, finishing just two points behind Cedar Park, 64-62. Senior Molly Humes again led the way for the Spartans with a fifth place finish overall in 19-minutes, 24.5-seconds.

“It was really good. There were definitely some rough spots that were pretty hard, but other than that it was a great race,” Humes said. “We had a lot of good competitors, and everyone on our team had a good, consistent race.”

While Seven Lakes came out two points behind Cedar Park, the Spartans beat Tompkins by 14 points and Stratford by 31, which Humes identified as a goal before the season began.

“We’re really excited. We’ve never really beaten Tompkins or Stratford,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard, and we don’t even have all of our girls completely healthy right now, so that was really exciting.”

Rounding out the top five for Seven Lakes were sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick (13th, 20:01.3), senior Rose Campbell-West (15th, 20:10.3), junior Sarah Zadansky (17th, 20:28.1) and sophomore Sofia Chazaro (25th, 20:47.9). She edged out teammate and freshman Grace Havern for the final scoring spot by just 0.2 seconds.

Seven Lakes coach David Pollack had praise for his team, noting it had just started transitioning into speedwork in practice.

“I thought they ran really well,” he said. “They ran together as a team, and it’s one of the first times they’ve done that this season. I really enjoyed the competitiveness they showed and the fight they showed, and I’m really excited about the rest of the season.”

Pollack said that going forward, keeping the girls’ confidence up would be the key to a strong showing in district, and hopefully, at the state meet.

“It was good to see our girls go out there against great competition and actually rise, because we’ve spent a couple times questioning our own ability and it’s been a sell to get them to believe in themselves,” he said. “If they can believe in themselves, I think we can get back to state, and that’s been our driving force ever since 2016, which was our last trip.”

In addition to team success, Humes pinpointed the school’s 5k record—18:09—as something she wanted to challenge by season’s end.

“Right now, we’re just trying to stay together as a pack and finish higher up,” Humes said. “We’re also trying to get into more competitive races. We’ve got McNeil coming up [on Sept. 28], so that’ll be a good test.”

Right behind Seven Lakes in the team standings was Tompkins. It was a strong day on the course for juniors Addison Stevenson (fourth, 19:21.4) and Hayden Gold (sixth, 19:28.1).

Stevenson was the top finisher among Katy-area girls running at the meet.

“I felt good, I felt like I still had a lot of energy. I’m still new at this sport, so each time I’m trying something different at each race,” Stevenson said. “I tried not to start off too fast, and I tried staying with Hayden most of the way, and I didn’t wear a watch, so I wasn’t messing with it during the race.”

Gold said she and Stevenson tried to stay with one another throughout the race, as a way to pace themselves.

“Just stay at the front, stay with my teammate Addie, and keep pushing the entire race and focus on moving ahead,” Gold said, describing her thought process.

Both mentioned finishing strong as an aspect of their running they wanted to improve on.

On the boys’ side, Seven Lakes continued its strong string of recent racing with a second-place finish to a powerhouse The Woodlands squad, 76-34. Tompkins finished in fourth place with 127 points.

Seven Lakes coach Scott Kenney and Tompkins coach Walt Yarrow both mentioned the importance of facing a team like The Woodlands early in the season.

For the Spartans, senior Carson Slater finished in fifth place (16:06.5). Kenney said he has been leading the way for the team, adding that Slater has been a more vocal leader this year. Kenney said Slater has been more assertive in holding himself and teammates accountable.

“These guys want to be elite,” Kenney said. “They want to be top-three, they want to be a podium team. Getting that to transverse into workouts, into eating and sleeping, you know you’ve got to be podium in those decisions, all the time. It’s not just about how hard you work, but how you recover.”

Rounding out the top five for the Spartans were senior Corbin Brescher (13th, 16:24.6), sophomore Ruben Rojas (14th, 16:25.2), senior Spencer Seale (20th, 16:39.1) and senior Juan Royo (33rd, 17:01.3). Kenney highlighted the jump made by Rojas this week as one he would like to see the rest of his squad emulate, to challenge them to get closer to Slater’s times.

“Now we’ve got to bring everyone else along with him,” Kenney said. “All of them should be in the top 10. One of the big stats we look at is not just our No. 1 (runner), but what’s the split between our No. 1 and our No. 5. We have to continue to work on that in training. I really believe that we have the ability to finish top four in the region.”

Similar to the girls’ side, while the Tompkins’ boys finished behind Seven Lakes in the team standings, they had the best finisher among local runners. Senior Gavin Saacke took fourth place with a time of 16:02.2.

“I felt good,” Saacke said. “It was a tough course like always, but I was able to push through and have a good race for me. I’m just trying to run a good time and take out some of the good competition and keep up with the faster guys out here.”

Yarrow said he was proud of how his team raced, since they didn’t run any seniors with their usual No. 1 runner Cole Lindhorst on a college visit.

“I think we have room for improvement, and I think we will improve,” he said. “We’re a super young team, which for us is a pretty big deal. We’re just looking for improvements from these guys each week.”

Also, Yarrow noted that the season was still young.

“It’s hard to get your best times this early, because then you have to hold it six weeks to district (meet), eight weeks to state,” he said. “We just want to progress each week, and build and build and build, and be our fastest when we get to district and to state. That’s what we’ve done the past couple years, so I feel good about that.”