The first time Ryan freshman Kate Soltero ran in a 5,000-meter run was the first time her coaches and teammates knew this could be a special season for Soltero.
As the season continued and Soltero’s times and her school record got lower, Ryan’s boys asked the same question after each meet. They wanted to know if they beat Kate.
Soltero’s eighth-place finish at last weekend’s District 5-5A meet ensured her a spot in Saturday’s Class 5A Region I meet at Lubbock’s Mae Simmons Park.
The Ryan freshman will be the school’s lone representative. Denton will send three athletes, while Guyer is sending its boys team and its girls team.
Ryan coach Jayme Kiraly said Soltero’s advancement to regionals is a feat considering the competition she faced at district.
“This area is the best of the best,” Kiraly said. “So to see her perform so well with them is impressive.”
Soltero finished the district meet with a time of 19 minutes, 15 seconds — the lowest time in school history.
She became the first Ryan athlete to go to the regional meet since Lindsey Hinton in 2008. Hinton now is a senior at Tarleton State.
The top 10 individuals from each regional meet advance to the state meet. The top three teams from each regional meet advance to the state meet. Ryan’s last girls qualifier was in 2000, when Allison Macsas qualified for the 4A state meet.
Soltero said she wasn’t expecting to have the start she’s had to her high school career.
“I was expecting to be way worse than what I’m doing right now, especially since we’re with older girls,” Soltero said. “I wasn’t expecting to be put on varsity.”
Soltero didn’t just get the attention of her competitors. She also gained the attention of her male teammates, who quickly realized how fast the freshman is.
“The entire guys team kind of kicked it in gear after that first meet,” Ryan senior Landon Hammock said. “Only like three of us beat her.”
Kiraly said Soltero didn’t get fazed as she went up against one of the most competitive districts in the state.
Two of the district’s schools — Hebron and Flower Mound Marcus — are ranked among the top five Class 5A girls teams in the state by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas.
Soltero said she’d be proud and excited if she were able to reach the state meet Nov. 9 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
No matter how Soltero does from here on out, it’s an indication of what may come for her in the next few years.
“It is really cool,” Ryan runner Missy Sosa said. “It’s amazing because she’s a freshman. She started off really young and she’s already progressing and getting better. Imagine when she gets to her senior year — how good she will be by that time.”
Denton sends three
By the time the end of the regular season rolled around, Denton coach Patrick Matous could notice the times of most of this team continuing to drop.
All those 6 a.m. workouts were starting to pay off. For Denton’s Brandon McManus, Alex Goff and Jordan Muniz, their work helped them reach the Class 4A Region I meet in Lubbock.
Last season, McManus finished one spot shy of reaching the regional meet. This year, McManus finished in eighth and Goff, a freshman, finished seventh to advance to regionals.
McManus said he knows the course at Mae Simmons Park will be challenging.
“I feel really good because this is something that I’ve been looking forward to,” McManus said. “The course is going to be harder, but I know I don’t want to find something easy. I want to find something hard.”
McManus and Goff have fueled each other throughout the season, as Goff carried over his strong running from his middle school days.
While there’s understandably a step-up in competition, Goff said being successful has made his first year more fun.
“It’s much more enjoyable,” Goff said. “I didn’t expect that.”
Like McManus, Muniz is making her second appearance at the regional meet. Matous said the pace of the meets is usually faster that what she’s used to but the senior has persevered to reach regionals.
“She has the ability to put things, in regard to how she’s feeling, out of her mind and she just runs,” Matous said. “It’s clear that she is in pain. You can see it in her face. You can see it in her stride, but she doesn’t focus on it. She’s focused on finishing.”
Soon, McManus and Muniz won’t have any 6 a.m. workouts to attend.
“You just get worn out, and that’s just the span of a year,” Matous said. “So to do this for four years, it speaks to their determination.”