ROUND ROCK — Neither Mother Nature, nor history, were particularly on the side of the Brownwood High cross country contingent Saturday. Still, despite gusty winds and the lack of experience on such a grand stage, Dylan Person and the Lady Lions cross country team put their best feet forward at the UIL Class 3A state meet at Old Settler’s Park.
Person, who finished second both at the District 8-3A and Region I-2A meets, medaled with an eighth-place time of 16:49.46 Saturday, while the Lady Lions — making Brownwood’s first-ever team appearance at a state meet — placed seventh out of 16 teams in the field.
“The bar has been set to a new height,” said Brownwood cross country head coach Don Hood. “They stepped up in a great way today and they realize now that they can be a part of the state meet and compete. It doesn’t matter who your coach is, what matters is the time you put in it.”
Person trailed only state champion Cesar Gonzalez of Lytle (16:01.35), runner-up Christopher Speaks of Coldspring-Oakhurst (16:19.6), Taylor Clayton of Decatur (16:37.34), Kevin Nunez of Alvarado (16:39.34), Jacob Perry of Sanger (16:39.39), Scotty Sprinkle of Pollok Central (16:42.76) and John Hillhouse of Brookshire Royal, (16:47.02) in a field of 104 runners.
“Dylan just ran a tremendously gutsy race,” Hood said. “They all went out really fast and the whole first mile was with the wind and he came through there with a 4:47, which I think is the best time he’s ever run for one mile. My first thought was he was done because if you run your personal best for one mile and still have two to go, most people can’t hang on. He was about sixth or seventh and then he made the turn and went into the wind and it hit everybody hard. He fell back to 10th place, but he came back over the last 200 yards to move up to eighth place.”
The Lady Lions, who advanced with a third-place performance at the Region I-3A meet, fell just three points shy of overtaking regional champion Dalhart for sixth place. State champion Sanger finished with 63 points, one better than runner-up La Vernia, followed by Decatur (91 points) in third place, Fairfield (126), College Station (136), Dalhart (161) and Brownwood (164).
“What made it a really great meet is we easily beat Liberty Hill (12th place), who beat us at regionals, and Dalhart only beat us by three points,” Hood said. “At regionals, Dalhart beat us by 13.
“But today was a terrible day to run. The wind was gusting to about 25 or 30 mph, it was dusty and hot. Our times weren’t real good, but neither was anybody else’s. But if you look at where we finished, opposed to where we should have been based on regional results, we way outperformed what we were expected to do. We didn’t run our best times of the year, but they competed. We were picked to come in ninth, 10th or 11th, so to finish seventh, they really got after it.”
Julianne Hood was the top performer for the Lady Lions as she came in 14th place with a time of 12:48.73 trailed by Tori Burkett (23rd, 12:56.34), Katy Jacobs (40th, 13:17.09), Victoria Hood (41st, 13:17.69), Ashley Strong (46th, 12:23.8), Jessica Romero (54th, 13:31.24) and Alex Bernal (61st, 13:44.97).
“Julianne ran a great time with a 12:48 and if you take the wind out of it that’s probably a 12:18, and that’s pretty fast,” Hood said. “If you have someone running like that, you have a chance to finish pretty high. Once the other girls saw Julianne running well, they stepped it up, too. Everyone fed off each other and there was only about 30 seconds in between them.”
Person, as well as the majority of the Lady Lions cross country team, have at least one more year of eligibility remaining. Hood feels both state entrants could have even better seasons next year, and Brownwood could send even more participants to Round Rock in 2013.
“If they spend enough time and work hard enough, the girls have a chance to compete for the title next year,” Hood said. “Dylan wants to be in the top three and I think he has a chance to win it all, and the boys team could be here, too.
“After today I think now they realize they belong here. They came in and stepped up and competed hard against good competition. A lot of things can happen in a year, but if they’re willing to pay the price there could be a very good reward.”