At Arlington’s Vandergriff Park on Saturday, four cross country teams from two schools set out to accomplish what many other squads failed to achieve.
With a trip to Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on the line, Pilot Point and Sanger qualified for this weekend’s state meet.
In the Class 2A Region II meet, Pilot Point qualified its boys team and girls team in the same year for the first time.
In the Class 3A Region II meet, Sanger qualified both of its teams as well. But with senior Bryce Perry posting the top girls time and junior Jacob Perry logging the top boys time, the siblings accomplished a rare feat in both winning regional championships.
All four teams have plenty left to accomplish going into the state’s ultimate meet.
Sanger’s boys team has finished second the last two years and is itching for a state title. Sanger’s girls, along with both Pilot Point teams, have yet to reach the podium.
When Pilot Point made it to state in 1997, Jeff Price was a senior on the boys side that finished tied for 10th in the Class 2A meet.
Fifteen years later and in his sixth year as head coach, Price has steered his teams back to state, a feat he’s accomplished before at his alma mater.
Going into the regional meet, Price admitted, his team wasn’t the strongest among the competition.
In team cross country, the top five times from the seven runners from each school are counted toward the team’s overall score.
At Vandergriff Park, Price was perched at the back of the course where there weren’t as many spectators. That allowed him to shout final instructions at his athletes before they headed toward the finish.
With Price about 800 yards from the finish line, he had no idea how his team fared until the results were posted.
“Obviously it’s twice as nice when you’re able to take both teams,” Price said. “The kids really support each other. They pull for each team. As soon as the girls found out that they made it to state, they couldn’t wait to get the boys’ results and see if the guys are going to go with them. They were all really excited for each other.”
On both Bearcat teams, the top five times for both the boys and the girls were the fastest they’d been all season. And it wasn’t even close, Price said.
Senior Mitch Mendoza led the Bearcats with a time of 16:58.06, while sophomore Luis Giron provided the team’s second-best time at 17:27.45. The girls were paced by senior Lori Campbell with a time of 12:43.91.
Pilot Point’s boys team finished third, while the girls team finished in second.
When the best teams in the state congregate in Round Rock on Saturday, Price said he’ll need a similar effort from his runners.
“On paper, we’re probably sitting between eighth and 10th,” Price said. “It’s going to be real tough. They’re definitely going to have to run their best times of the year to get anywhere near the podium, and they know that.”
Sanger head coach Clint Davidson was watching something special occur Saturday as well.
The last two years, the Indians’ boys squad finished second at state. But only junior Jacob Perry returned from last year’s squad. The fresh faces were as effective as the old ones, and now the boys team has a shot to see the same success.
Sanger’s boys squeaked into the state meet with a third-place finish, while the girls cruised to a regional title behind three top-10 times.
“It was a big thing to make it there, to get the experience for next year, because I don’t have any seniors on this [boys] team,” Davidson said.
Jacob Perry led the team and the other 171 competitors with a time of 15:50.93. And sister Bryce Perry bested the 164 girls she ran against with a time of 12:04.42.
“It was a special moment,” Davidson said. “I don’t know if it had ever happened. I had a lot of coaches coming up and asking me if I had known if it had ever happened before. I knew they both could do it, but I knew it was a special moment for her and her brother.”
Their names were called and the duo stood side by side, embracing their rare accomplishment and each other before taking pictures to commemorate the occasion.
Sister and brother will try to find the podium again Saturday, something both Pilot Point teams and both Sanger teams will attempt to do as well.
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Argyle — senior Cameron Schafer, senior Gabriel Landin
Guyer Wildcats (team)
Lake Dallas — junior Brad James
Pilot Point Bearcats (team)
Sanger Indians (team)
Guyer — Junior Devin Norton
Krum — Caylee Thomas
Pilot Point Lady Cats (team)
Sanger Lady Indians (team)