Oct. 14—MIDLOTHIAN — The Cleburne Yellow Jackets qualified for the Class 5A Region I meet with a third-place finish at Thursday's District 8-5A championships in Midlothian while a couple of Lady Jackets qualified individually.
Cleburne finished in third place by 14 points over Mansfield Summit but the Jackets also came oh-so-close to second place, missing by one single point behind Burleson High's 75.
Cleburne Coach Paul Chavez said they were proud of the success the team had but also applauded the efforts of all of the Jackets' cross country student-athletes.
"Our expectations are for all the runners, varsity and JV, is to compete," Chavez said. "Give us your best effort. We set this goal last year at the regional meet. We took some of the boys to support and to experience the next level with the girls team. They bought in and set it. And reached it. We are proud of them; all of them.
"We had been watching times and numbers, and knew it would be close [to finishing second]. They were very excited [to qualify] but they wanted that second-place spot, but only missed it by one point."
Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets were junior Ben Ludlow, who placed third overall with a time of 16:52, and sophomore Parker Brown, who finished fifth at 16:54.
"They have been great leaders all year long," Chavez said. "They are very coachable and lead the way at practice. When they run fast it makes the rest of the team run faster."
Helping Cleburne advance as a team were sophomore Jack Murray and freshman Braydon Deskins with finishes of 22nd and 23rd with times of 17:52 and 17:53, respectively, while junior Miguel Sanchez finished 27th to give the Jackets five runners in the top 30, which was enough to qualify as a team.
On the girls' side, Cleburne sophomore Kayla Abbott and freshman Autumn Casillas both qualified for regionals with top-10 finishes. Abbott placed seventh with a time of 20:36 while Casillas set a new personal record with a time of 20:44 to finish ninth.
"They are both competitors," Chavez said. "On race day, they bring their best effort every single time. They are young and the future is bright. Next year, we have some incoming freshman runners from Smith and Wheat Middle Schools that we are looking at to come in to contribute and give us depth."
One thing that Chavez said about Cleburne's top-4 finishers — Abbott, Casillas, Brown and Ludlow — is they all share a couple of common traits.
"They are determined and they understand that they have to put in the work to be able to get the result they want," he said. "They are willing to do that. Talent can only go so far, it takes hard work. Times are getting faster each year. It's unbelievable and they understand that."
Up next for the Jackets is the Class 5A Region I championships Oct. 25 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.
"Our expectations are to embrace the challenge and give it our best effort," Chavez said. "That's all we can control. Live and learn. It all [started Friday] morning with our recovery run."
Other county runners advance in 5A
Burleson High, Burleson Centennial and Joshua each had several runners qualify for the regional championships after strong showings at Thursday's District 8-5A championships in Midlothian.
Burleson Centennial's Noah Martin won an individual district title with a first-place finish in the varsity boys race with a time of 16:35 to help the Spartans claim a first-place finish and team district championship.
The Spartans finished with 59 points, 14 clear of second-place Burleson, and had five runners place in the top 21.
Burleson senior Julian Salyer finished second for a silver medal with a time of 16:36, just a second behind Martin, to lead the Elks, who had four runners finish in the top 20.
On the girls' side, Burleson Centennial's Ella Magallan placed third overall with a time of 19:43 to lead the Lady Spartans to a second-place team finish and a regional berth. Centennial's Lindsay Medlin and Bethany Hoyler finished 14th and 15th with times of 21:03 and 21:05, respectively.
Burleson's Kathryn Evans placed eighth overall with a time of 20:40 to qualify for regionals for the Lady Elks.
For Joshua, the Owls had two individuals qualify for regionals.
On the boys' side, Ryland Aguzzi advanced out of district with a ninth-place finish and time of 17 minutes, while the Lady Owls' Rhyan Dollar-Daugherty finished sixth with a time of 20:32.
"Well, definitely not what we wanted team-wise but still some victories today anyway," Joshua Coach Jeff Brooks said. "Had some gentlemen and women really run well and compete so hard against one of the best districts in the region if not the state. Very excited for Ryland and Rhyan to move on to regionals and looking forward to getting back to work."