Lady Lion senior Jessica Romero is the first Brownwood athlete to appear in four cross country state meets, while Bangs’ Timothy Hall and Early’s Ryan Hill — both sophomore — will be making their debuts at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock Saturday.
Romero placed eighth at the Region I-4A meet in Lubbock with a time of 12:02.15 on Oct. 26 to clinch a state berth. Her qualifying time was almost a full minute better than her state effort of 12:51.01 in 2014, which left her in 45th place.
“It feels like all the work I’ve done has really paid off,” Romero said of her four state trips. “I’m really thankful that God has helped me get this far. This is the last race so I’m for sure going to run as fast as I can, as fast as I’ve ever run for a bunch of reasons.
“First of all, God gave me this talent and I don’t want to waste it. And also because of my team. We’ve grown so close. When I get to the starting line I’m going to represent Brownwood and make sure all the hard work that we put in shows whenever I go up there and race.”
Romero, who will continue her athletic career at Oral Roberts University, has set a pair of goals for Saturday, as the Class 4A girls will run at 9:40 a.m.
“I hope I get under 11:40 and I hope to get in the Top 25,” Romero said. “Maybe I can do even better than that and go beyond what I think I can do. With the help of God, I know I can do it.”
Hall won every meet he competed in this season until the Region I-3A event in Lubbock on Oct. 26, where he placed third. Hall qualified with a time of 16:28.03 and trailed only Tornillo’s Adrian Morales (16:16.74) and Ballinger’s Logan Reyna (16:25.16).
“The guy from Ballinger, I beat him before, but the guy from Tornillo, it was the only time I ran against him,” Hall said. “But all I wanted to do was make it to state. It felt pretty cool.”
With first-place finishes in the majority of his meets this season, Hall has adopted an approach to keep himself focused that could pay huge dividends this weekend.
“You just have to remember that there are other guys who can beat you, so you have to work to make sure you can beat them,” Hall said. “Even though you may not be racing against them at that time, they’re still out there.”
As for Hall’s weekend goals, the state championship is the ultimate reward but he added a Top 10 effort would make the trip feel like a success.
Hill finished four spots behind Hall in seventh place at the Region I-3A meet, as he posted a career-best time of 16:46.38.
“It was very emotional,” Hill said of his state-qualifying effort. “My dad ran and picked me up, my whole family was patting me on the back. They were tearing up, I was tearing up, it was very exciting and a wonderful time.”
As for what he expects against state competition, Hill said, “It’s going to be different. I’m not really that nervous now, but I’m still here. But what can I lose?”
While Hill didn’t list a specific place he’s shooting for, he hopes to repeat the accomplishment of his most recent outing — his fastest-ever time.
“At regionals, I PR’ed and ran a 16:46 and I want to run at least at 16:30 at state,” Hill said.
Hall and Hill will run at 9 a.m. Saturday along with the rest of the Class 3A boys.