ZEPHYR — With only three members returning from the Zephyr Lady Bulldogs’ first cross country state qualifying team in almost 20 years, returning to Round Rock seemed like a distant dream.

Sprinkle in a rash of injuries and the roster not quite taking the shape head coach DeAnn Perkins expected, and it’s easily understandable why the Lady Bulldogs are still in shock about making a second consecutive trip to the UIL Class A state cross country meet.

The Lady Bulldogs will run at 10 a.m. Saturday at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

“We were not expecting it,” said junior Karina Rincon of Zephyr’s third-place finish at the Region II-A meet in Arlington. “We feel proud of each other because of all the hard work we’ve gone through. With all the injuries and everything else, we were still able to make it this far.”

With a revamped region that included traditional power Lindsay, which Zephyr defeated by three points to clinch the final state berth, the deck appeared stacked against Zephyr.

“Our region got a lot harder and there was a lot of competition this year, so we were very surprised when we found out we made it to state again,” Rincon said.

If there’s an injury to be had, the Lady Bulldogs feel as though they’ve experienced it this fall.

“We’ve had hyper-extended knees, shin splits, back problems and Karina tore her ACL,” said Codi Perkins, one of three members of the Zephyr roster who were in junior high last year.

Added Rincon, “It’s kind of painful sometimes, but I suck it up and keep going for the team. I can’t let them down.”

Aubrey Burkett is the lone senior on the Zephyr roster this season and her teammates’ devotion toward making sure she got to run in Round Rock again this year has been part of their inspiration.

“This just feels awesome,” Burkett said of the return to state. “I don’t know how else to say it. It’s really overwhelming.”

Added Perkins, “We’re definitely going to miss our senior. We wanted to give her another shot.

“We’ve all grown closer as team. We’ve had to push each other and also support each other. It’s been difficult because we’re involved with other activities, and trying to stay healthy.”

At the regional meet, junior Darian Smith paced Zephyr’s performance with a 15th-place time of 13:16.47 trailed by Burkett (23rd, 13:32.43), freshmen Chasity Williams (28th, 13:35.57) and Haven Rogers (30th, 13:47.16), Rincon (48th, 14:09.19) and Perkins (59th, 14:18.26).

As for the state meet, each of the Lady Bulldogs want to put forth their best effort and hopefully improve on Zephyr’s performance a year ago.

“Last year we got seventh so we’re trying to aim for a better place,” Burkett said.

Added Smith, “We going to give it our best and see how it goes.”