THE WOODLANDS — The Woodlands boys cross country team captured the District 15-6A title on Thursday morning at College Park High School, officially kicking off the postseason for the four-time defending state champions.
The top three teams and top 10 individuals from the district meet punched their tickets to the Region II-6A championships, which will be held Monday, Oct. 28, at the Jesse Owens Memorial Complex in Dallas.
The Highlanders finished with a score of 35, beating out Klein (48) and crosstown rival College Park (50) for the crown. The Woodlands actually came up short against the Cavaliers last season at the district meet before going on to win the Class 6A state title.
This time around, the Highlanders came out on top and look poised for continued success. The Woodlands was ranked No. 1 in the state by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas heading into the district meet.
“I liked our front runners coming out and setting the tone — Spencer (Cardinal) and Ethan (Hammer) doing a good job for the group,” The Woodlands coach Juris Green said. “You never can shake a stick at a district title. You’ve always got to like that. I think it’s the first one of the year for the district, and to be able to bring it back for the school, to The Woodlands, is always a special thing.
“But for us, we’re ever hungry, and we’re always trying to put something better together every week. As soon as they got done with that race, they were talking about how we can get better for next week and do something a little bit different. We’re happy, but we’re in this part of the season where momentum had got to increase with those varsity guys.”
The Woodlands was led by Cardinal, who took third place at state last season. The senior runner finished the five-kilometer race with a time of 15 minutes, 12.53 seconds. He was followed by teammates Hammer (third, 15:27.09), Chance Gibson (eighth, 15:55.43), Ben Amundson (10th, 15:58.78) and Brian Sewall (13th, 16:04.40).
The Highlanders placed all seven of their runners in the top 18 as Matias Monoen (17th, 16:15.38) and Aaron Soltmann (18th, 16:16.09) also had strong performances.
“It’s another opportunity to compete and just to prove things to ourselves,” Green said of the regional meet. “It will be one more week closer to the state meet, which we’re excited about, getting out there and defending a title.”
College Park is also headed back to the regional meet with its third-place finish. The Cavaliers were led by individual runner-up Nicklaus Brawner, who clocked in at 15 minutes, 18.84 seconds. He was followed by teammates Ben Black (fifth, 15:37.75), Chase Nutt (11th, 16:01.88), Jeffrey Black (12th, 16:02.43) and David Aguilar (20th, 16:26.72).
There was just one individual qualifier as Oak Ridge runner Jackson Thomas punched his ticket with a seventh-place finish at 15:54.62.
LADY CAVALIERS CAPTURE TITLE
The College Park girls successfully defended their district title by holding off The Woodlands and Klein Oak in a close race at the top.
The Lady Cavaliers finished with a score of 61, beating out the Lady Highlanders (64) and Lady Panthers (64) by a slim margin. The Woodlands took second place via sixth-place tiebreaker, but all three teams are headed to regionals.
“I thought they did well,” College Park coach William Fairhurst said. “Muddy conditions, but that’s cross country. They worked hard to establish themselves early in the race and moved from there. … As close as it was with some great schools, when you get a chance to win the district in this tough of a district, it feels nice.”
College Park was led by Elena Villarreal, who took fourth place with a time of 19 minutes, 16.91 seconds. She was followed by teammates Kathryn Lyon (11th, 19:57.06), Madeline Orr (13th, 20:01.15), Robyn Kowalski (15th, 20:05.62) and Sarah Jahnke (18th, 20:14.00).
Our little freshman, Elena finished fourth overall, and that was really good to see,” Fairhusrt said. “Our No. 5 runner, Sarah Jahnke, she got spiked and got stitches at McNeil, so she hasn’t been able to run much since then, and she stepped up big for us coming back off an injury like that. Those two runners really stood out to me today.”
The Woodlands was led by Natasja Beijen, who finished third overall at 19 minutes, 13.91 seconds. She was followed by teammates Ashley Sharer (10th, 19:54.94), Kaitlin Laner (12th, 19:58.34), Brooke Forbes (19th, 20:14.53) and Sydney Ellefson (20th, 20:18.12).
Individual qualifiers included Vanessa Garcia of Klein Forest (sixth), Hope Moon of Klein Collins (seventh) and Maya Martinez of Klein Cain (ninth). Gabrielle Hoots and Elizabeth Winkler of Klein Oak were the district champion and runner-up, respectively.