ROUND ROCK — The Woodlands was on a mission for history this year. The Highlanders had won four consecutive state championships and were looking to become the first program to ever win five straight twice.
Reaching that pinnacle was not in the cards for the team on Saturday afternoon, however, as Southlake Carroll edged The Woodlands for the Class 6A title on the five-kilometer course at Old Settlers Park. Carroll finished with a score of 80 points, beating out the Highlanders (115) and Lewisville Flower Mound (133).
“We had a great team day,” said The Woodlands coach Juris Green, who was honored as the National Federation of High Schools Sectional Coach of the Year on Saturday. “Getting a silver doesn’t mark a defeat or a loss. ... If you had told me before the race that we were going to run a 15:22 average, I would have taken it not knowing what place we were going to be. It was our best average of the year by two seconds.”
The Woodlands was led once again by senior Spencer Cardinal, who finished third overall with a time of 14 minutes, 45.01 seconds. He was followed closely by fellow senior Ethan Hammer, who captured fifth place at 14:50.32. Both runners were top-nine finishers for the Highlanders last season as well and will be missed.
“They’re the anchors that we revolve around,” Green said. “It’s nice not to have just one, but to have a couple. They’re poised, they’re calm, and they’re the people that with the other guys, we point to and say, ‘Watch them. Look what they’re doing, and do that,’ when it comes to daily routines, workouts and especially race days.”
Aaron Soltmann (52nd, 15:43.35), Matias Mononen (53rd, 15:43.47) and Chance Gibson (64th, 15:48.26) rounded out the Highlanders’ scoring runners, and Ben Amundson (66th, 15:48.77) and Brian Sewell (81st, 15:57.22) also competed. Mononen, Gibson and Sewell will all be returning next season.
College Park also had a strong showing, finishing fifth as a team with a score of 163. Nicklaus Brawner led the way for the Cavaliers, taking 16th place overall with a time of 15:14.66. He was followed by Benjamin Black (44th, 15:38.68), Chase Nutt (46th, 15:40.14), Jeffrey Black (38th, 15:44.93) and David Aguilar (87th, 16:00.23). Jeremy Bourbeau (16:06.98) and Ethan Williams (16:27.23) also competed.
Two College Park girls also raced on Saturday. Freshman Elena Villarreal finished 31st overall with a time of 18:29.62, and senior Madeline Orr took 55th place with a mark of 18:50.84.
MCQUILLAN FINISHES STRONG
Magnolia West senior Peyton McQuillan capped her decorated prep career with a seventh-place finish in the Class 5A girls race with a time of 17 minutes, 57.65 seconds, a new personal record.
McQuillan was the top runner from the Greater Houston area and has improved on her placing in each of her four trips to state. She finished 19th as a freshman, 11th as a sophomore and eighth as a junior last year.
“I definitely think my training was part of my success because I’ve working a lot harder, and I’ve been running with the boys on our team,” McQuillan said. “They’ve been pushing me more than you know. With the girls coming to state, too, that kind of made it easier, and I was less nervous to compete. It was just more relaxed.”
Magnolia West finished 16th as a team with a score of 328. Junior Catherine Benavidez (19:18.19), senior Maddy Spottswood (20:07.93), freshman Karina Sosa (20:20.33), senior Abby McBride (21:00.26), freshman Avie Gillen (21:19.88) and freshman Ainsley Ross (21:24.34) rounded out the competing runners.
“It was honestly so amazing,” McQuillan said of running alongside her teammates. “I was just so excited I got to share that experience with them because that was our goal this whole year. I knew we could do it on the inside, and just the fact that we did do it for the first time in 10 years, that was amazing. We all had fun with it.”
Montgomery junior Abigail Wilson finished 15th overall with a time of 18:20.79, and Lake Creek sophomore Emma Little finished 72nd with a mark of 19:18.77. Both runners were competing as individuals.
Grand Oaks sophomore Hayden Eubank finished 29th overall in the Class 5A boys race at 15:41.26. Magnolia junior Dylan Sequeira (15:46.98) finished 37th, and teammate Keaton Strait (16:31.23) was 93rd. Willis senior Carlos Barcenas took 39th place with a time of 15:50.12.