One year made quite the difference for the Lake Creek girls cross country program.
In the team’s first season, no Lions made it past the District 20-5A meet.
On Thursday at Misty Meadows Camp in Conroe, Lake Creek’s girls won the District 20-5A title with a team score of 71, edging second-place Kingwood Park by one point.
“I’m ecstatic,” Lions coach Lea Carruthers said. “We’re a second-year school and to be able to pull of that feat in such a tough district with a lot of competition is really amazing.”
Lake Creek placed four runners in the top 20 to earn the district title. Carruthers says she was nervous ahead of Thursday’s race but the nerves may not have been necessary.
“There was a lot of stress going into it,” Carruthers said. “The last couple nights I haven’t been able to sleep. But I don’t know why I worried because our girls prepared, took care of business and I’m really, really proud of them.”
Caney Creek was the third and final team to qualify for the girls Region III-5A meet. The Panthers scored 93 points and beat Montgomery by six points for the final team regional qualifier spot.
It’s the first time the Caney Creek girls team has advanced to the region meet.
“They’ve been working hard the last few years, but I told them this year we just have to step up the intensity,” Caney Creek coach Morris Sweat said. “They ran a ton of miles over the summer, which they’re not used to doing. Just faster workouts, harder workouts and every meet they would see the results and start buying in. Seeing them come together, run their best times at the end of the year and beat teams we’re probably not supposed to beat was just awesome.”
Montgomery junior Abigail Wilson won the girls race in 18:29.81, topping Lake Creek’s Emma Little in the final stretch by less than a second.
“It feels really good,” Wilson said. “I had to tough it out mentally, especially at the end. Going in, I had a lot of nerves but I kind of thought about my team and doing it for them. They really helped me to prepare for it. They honestly have made me who I am today.”
Wilson placed fifth at the district meet, and third on her team, last fall. After the graduation of sister Allison Wilson and Halena Rahmaan — now running at Alabama and Texas, respectively — Abigail claimed the top spot.
“It’s helped me so much,” Wilson said of the past years of training with the duo. “It’s helped me tremendously. They’ve been who aspire to be since I started running. Especially having a sister who’s so encouraging, it’s helped me so much, more than I can say.”
Tomball’s Callen Nash was third across the finish line and she did so in 18:50.43. Kingwood Park’s Adalan Hammond followed about 35 seconds later. Caney Creek’s Itzela Darkenwald ran a 19:45.05 and placed fifth. Sarah Burke of Lake Creek finished sixth three seconds later. In seventh, Tomball’s Allison Dougherty broke the 20-minute barrier by five seconds. Emma Burke was the third Lake Creek runner in the top-10 with her 20:07.11 eighth-place finish. Stephanie Keel of Willis placed ninth four seconds later.
“She has come so far,” Willis coach Dana Fossmo said of Keel. “Last year, she was running in the 23s and now she’s almost breaking 20. She came to me last spring and asked how she can get better, what can she do to improve. The main thing I told her was to concentrate on her training and take care of herself, and the No. 1 thing was to get a goal. Her goal this whole season was to make it to regionals and she did. I’m so proud of her.”
The final individual regional qualifier on the girls side was Grand Oaks’ Chloe Hunt, who finished in 20:14.46.
The first runner of the day to cross the finish line was Hayden Eubank, a Grand Oaks sophomore who finished in 16:04.49 to win the boys race. The Grizzly topped Willis’ Carlos Barcenas by less than three seconds.
“It’s amazing,” Eubank said. “I worked hard over the summer — twice a day. It’s hard but it’s worth it.”
As a team, Grand Oaks placed second with 84 points to advance as a team to the regional meet for the first time.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Grizzlies coach Craig Matthews said. “We’ve come a long way and, of course, we still don’t have seniors. We knew we had a chance at several individuals making it to regionals. They all (had personal records) today, some of them by 20, 30 seconds. We really strived to make sure we’re peaking at district. At previous meets, we might not have scored really well, but it was all to build up to this particular meet.”
Tomball won the meet with 49 points and five top-20 finishes. With 91 points, Montgomery edged Willis by two points for the third and final regional spot.
Tomball’s Bryan Mileski placed third with a race of 16:26.11. Eight seconds later, Montgomery’s Rocky Seale finished fourth. Kingwood Park’s Ruben Gonzalez came across in 16:40.96 to round out the top five.
Lake Creek’s Carter Gordy finished sixth in 16:45.71. A pair of Tomball runners — Kevin White and Riley Trent — followed seconds later. Troy Gabbert of New Caney was ninth with a race of 16:49.40. Kevin Guerrero claimed the last regional spot, one of two for Willis, with his race of 17:02.78.
“We expected to get the two boys — they’re both seniors,” Fossmo said of his qualifiers. “Carlos placed second in the regional last year, so he’s got tremendous talent. Made a little tactical mistake today, waiting a little too long before he did his thing. (Eubank) had a great kick, did a super job. (Guerrero) really gave a good effort and I was so glad he was 10th. He’ll probably be healed up by the time we get to regionals, which is nice.”
The Region III-5A meet will be held at Kate Barr Ross Park in Huntsville on Oct. 28.