|Posted on December 21, 2016 at 1:50 PM|
Like any other sport, XC has the end of season revelations of things that took us by surprise in either unexpected success or confounding expectations dashed. And there are always, those things that are constant. This year was no exception and each year the drama is novel and creates weekly anxiety as the races play out.
El Paso harriers once again continued to climb the ladder of recognition within the State and our return to runners to “watch out” for is unabated. At both the team level and at the individual level, EP XC is starting to make other teams within the State nervous at the starting line.
Teams of the Year
This was a VERY tough decision. So many positive events happened for a select group of teams this year, and ALL are deserving of recognition for the incredible strength they illustrated to get to their pinnacle mark:
Every year this team has been picked to come in no less than 2nd, but there was a monkey on their back when they got to Round Rock. The team made it their mission to tell the State they were for real. It took several attempts, but the Coyotes FINALLY made it to the podium. Let me tell you, everyone from TxRunning, Mile Split and EP XC Alumni were waiting for this race against Luling. And it was a fight to the finish, the score from 1-4 for Luling was 33 to Tornillo’s 37. The fight for the 5th man ultimately went to Luling but this was a great welter weight clash.
The Tornillo boys won the Silver for 2nd place at State. The monkey was finally off their back. It was a very emotional finish for the team and all the fans/parents who loaded up the Fan Van(Bus) to support the team. If you have ever made the trek to Round Rock and have noticed the plethora of Woodlands supporters, Luling is a 3A version of that. Its a sea of Green. All those in Tornillo red made sure Luling knew they were not just going to waltz away to the record 7th straight State title. As Pre would say, the coyotes almost made them bleed for it.
I know there are other teams with faster overall times, and even a 3-peat, but you need to remember, this is a team that has reached State 7 out of the last 8 years and they dont even have a track to practice. Got that? A track. No weight room. Even took them 10 miles to get to the outskirts of Horizon City so they could participate in the EP XC Alumni run. Thus, IMHO, I believe they need to be recognized for that type of perseverance and endurance, much like a good XC runner.
To understand how significant this season was for Eastwood, and how they are carrying the flag for ALL the El Paso XC runners, you have to leave the cozy confines of UIL. For better, or for worse to some in EP XC circles, forget that, for better, Eastwood has been pushing the envelope to pull EP back to the top of the mountain of XC in the State. This year has almost been a culmination of what can happen if you rage against the machine and MAKE good things happen. Starting with a surprising win in Arizona at the Desert Twilight.
The perceived highlight was to see if Danny Bernal can repeat his victory of last year, but no one expected the Troopers to win it all. That gave Eastwood a Statewide platform to talk about El Paso and let everyone on Mile Split, as well as DyeStat, who they were and where they come from and who they race week in and week out. Next up was taking the fight to Southlake Carroll themselves. Running at SL Carrolls own meet served up notice again that the Troopers wont back down and are not afraid to take them on. The Troopers won that meet, with particular circumstances, but it was a victory nonetheless.
And finally, after a 6th place finish in a crazy fast State race, Eastwood finished 4th at NXN South. Fourth!! Again, to understand the domination of some of the schools who attend that national race and to come only 25 points from a trip to Portland for Nationals is outstanding. It's nice that they are raising the tide of all boats. Coincidence that Anisa Burciaga who tagged along to the Desert Twilight PR’d there and wound up Top 10 at State and 2nd Team NXN South? They are there to support fellow desert harriers Tornillo and Clint at SL Carroll and NXN South.
May not be a popular concept, but for now, so goes the Troopers so goes EP XC. They are a great barometer. Now everyone else, lets go punch some East Texas XC in the mouth.
San Elizario Eagles
Wow! 3-peat!! What else do you have to say? The Eagles had a target on their back all year long and in the end they delivered. To be under pressure all year with everyone looking on from the other parts of the State hoping they would fail, and stay focused is a testament to the runners as well as the coaches to keep them grounded. The senior leadership kept pushing the underclassmen all year to ensure they knew what was at stake in November. It was great to once again see so many supporters in Round Rock as well as distinguised XC alum. Another great track season looks to be in store for them.
These guys!! Somehow you can never count these guys out. After reading all the pre-season polls, I knew somehow, someway they should be ranked, and we did, because I KNEW, they would somehow scrap their way to Round Rock. There were some ups and downs throughout the season and made me wonder, but sure enough, they pulled off a one point victory at Regionals! Impressive! They even finished higher at State than I predicted given the competition this year. I’m not sure what they are serving over at AHS, but guts is somewhere on the menu.
I thought the Austin Panthers would get the “not supposed to be here” award this year, but another cat took the honors. The Clint Lions were in a “rebuilding” year after a slew of seniors graduated last year. Honestly, I’m pretty sure they were under this impression as well. Therefore, the fact that they ran so well so early, so soon, bodes well for this group of Lions. The experience running out of town pays huge dividends in November. Now that this group has that taste, you can be sure they want to keep Round Rock on the Horizon for a few years to come. They hopefull will move up the ladder just like their local competition, San Eli has done.
Just keep running.Just keep running as Dory would say. Thats all you have to do to raise your game. The TB’s have been running in the Eastwood girls shadow for the past several years. Looks like they finally decided to take the stage themselves this year. Having a solid season that began with a great showing in Albuquerque should have hinted at things to come for this team. Taking the fight to Plano late in the year definetly paid off for late season heroics. At regionals, they once again switched places with local perennial power Eastwood by placing 6th. This is a very young team. If they can keep this up, things are surely on the upswing for girls XC in town and a changing of the guard may be coming.
Even though their streak of district titles has been broken, does not mean the Lady Troopers had a “down” year. Running strong at meets like Desert Twilight, Southlake Carroll, and NXN South always builds the culture of a team and will definetly carry over in the track season.
Jefferson Silver Foxes
Throughout the year the Silver Foxes were running strong and keeping up with the higher classification schools. That is always a good sign. The Silver Foxes were the top ranked EP girls team in 5A headed to Lubbock for Regionals and ran like it. They finished 6th, which was tied for the top ranked girls team from El Paso (with Americas).
Last entry in the “I didnt expect you here” category. There were rumblings right before the XC season started regarding the Lady T-birds. The past few seasons they have been hanging around, hanging around, waiting for the personnel to come together to eventually let everyone else in on the secret. This year was the reveal. The most prominent catalyst was the emergence of Janelle Jaeger. Combining a group of seniors with some speedy sophomores made everyone notice the Westsiders this year. With this shot in the arm, track should be fun; as well as next XC season. As mentioned above, a changing of the guard is always exciting to watch and more importantly, it raises the level of competition. The tide is rising for the girls XC in EP.