|Hopkins County runners heading to state meets|
|From Staff Reports|
Nov. 6, 2006 - From Arlington to Humble, a common thread ran through the regional cross country races on Saturday - the excellence of Hopkins County runners.
With Sulphur Springs' Graham Northcutt winning a star-studded race in the Class 4A, Region II meet, Como-Pickton's Bethanie Stinson taking gold in the Class 2A event, and both the North Hopkins boys and girls sweeping the team championships in the Class A, Region III meet while Miller Grove's Stormy Combs placed fourth, local runners were outstanding.
Those three individual runners and two teams all qualified for the state meet, scheduled for Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Several other runners just missed a trip to state. SSHS' Kasie Carrell and Tate Ramirez, Como-Pickton's Jordan Carlock, and Sulphur Bluff's Merced Rodriguez and Everett Wilder all finished among the top 25 in their classifications.
The top 10 individuals and three teams from each race qualified for state.
At the Region II site at Vandergriff Park, Sulphur Springs sent both its boys and girls teams. The boys were expected to challenge for a state berth, while the girls were running for experience.
Northcutt, who placed fourth last year at regional, was one of a handful of runners who could contend for the regional crown along with Forney's Dennis Yeats, Waco Midway's Jeff Sadler and Mesquite Poteet's Ryan Lusk.
At the one-mile mark, Northcutt was running at the back of the lead pack that included the others. Then, about half-way through the three-mile race, Northcutt and Yeats broke away with Sadler following.
Yeats and Northcutt eventually put some distance between themselves and Sadler, then Northcutt out-kicked Yeats over the final quarter-mile, breaking the tape in 15 minutes, 7.74 seconds, about eight seconds ahead of second place.
"He ran a smart race, and that was the key," said SSHS head coach Andy Holt. "We talked about not letting that lead group get too far ahead of him because Graham likes to sit back and pace himself and run his race. He seems to get faster as the race goes.
"He was able to keep them within range, and with a mile to go he was right there with them. I knew that was good for him and that he'd have a shot."
Northcutt said he felt strong and relaxed throughout the race.
"I felt pretty good. I was just trying to run about a five-minute first mile and see where I was," he related. "They weren't very far ahead of me, so I caught up to them and just ran with the leader as much as I could and tried to win it in the end."
Holt was disappointed the team didn't advance, but Sulphur Springs placed sixth in the overall standings as Mesquite Poteet, McKinney North and Midlothian took the top three places.
That was despite all seven of the Wildcats running their personal bests.
"Every one of our kids ran great," Holt said. "We probably ran the best that we could run, and it just wasn't good enough. It was very good competition, very stout.
"We wanted them to run their best and give their best effort. They did that - they did all they could do."
Carrell, a senior, finished 23rd in a time of 16:22.48, with Ramirez, a junior coming off hip surgery less than a month ago, crossing two places later in 16:25.21.
Junior Tyler Wilson was 64th in a time of 17:09.61, and sophomore Dylan Rutherford, competing with a painful hip condition, was 67th in 17:11.83. Erich Hartin and Quinton Larry came in at 18:08.26 and 18:21.54, respectively.
"I was just proud of the way those guys competed and got after it," Holt said. "They all ran as hard as they could."
On the girls side, the Lady Cats qualified for the state meet for the second straight year. Because of their youth (one senior) and level of competition, the Lady Cats were not in a position to compete for a state berth, but they ran well.
Freshman Karlie Junot continued her strong performances by being the first Lady Cat to finish the two-mile course in 13:49.46. She placed 86th overall. She was followed closely by junior Kelsey Evans in 13:51.18, with senior Robin Grafton and Cecily Adams each coming in at 14:12.� Freshman Kaci Crowson finished in 16:39.82.
"They ran hard," Holt said of the Lady Cats. "Karlie ran well all year, but really got better toward the end of the season. I thought they competed well."
At the Region III site, the medal stand was dotted with Hopkins County runners.
The North Hopkins boys and girls each came home with team championships in the Class A race. For the Lady Panthers, it was the ninth regional title since 1991 and the sixth in a row.
The NH girls, led by the trio of Jessi Mannis, Sabra Thomas and Rosa Fuentes, will be back at the state meet, where they have a runner-up finish and two state championships over the last three years.
At the regional meet, Mannis placed second individually, behind Lindsay's Chelsea Hermes, in a time of 11:58, while Thomas was one second behind in third place. Fuentes also finished in the top 10, placing ninth in 12:29.
Ebbonye Johnson ran well, finishing 22nd in 13:11, with Scarlet Lozano founding out the top five places in 31st (13:24). Cayla Newkirk was 46th in 13:50, and Virginia Thomas was 52nd in 13:59.
The Lady Panthers edged out Lindsay for the team championship, 57-69.
Miller Grove's Stormy Combs, meanwhile, placed fourth overall in a time of 12:12.37. That gives her a second consecutive trip to the state meet.
In the boys race, NH sophomore Jose Cadena placed second overall in a time of 17:15. The Panthers had a tight grouping of their next four runners as Jesus Delgado was 11th in 17:42, Pedro Gonzales was 15th in 17:58, Erick Perez finished 18th in 18:05, and Lorenzo Rivera placed 26th in 18:27.
Roger Sancho (19:07) and Coy Smith (19:51) rounded out the Panthers' team.
That gave North Hopkins 70 points, enough to edge out McLeod with 76.
In the Class 2A race, Stinson won by 13 seconds over second place, coming in at 12:06.90 to earn her third straight state bid. The C-P junior led a strong Lady Eagle bid her freshman teammate Jordan Carlock placed 18th in 13:22.67. Other Lady Eagles running were Alma Lara, Kristen Simmons, Irma Tellez, Lindsey Watkins and Nicole Spaid.
The C-P boys also qualified for regional, with Jimmy Lara finishing 46th in a a time of 19:27.79. He was followed by Jose Mercado, Ole Gutierrez, Justin Blount, Salvador Mejia and Rosario Gutierrez.
Sulphur Bluff boys had a strong showing as Merced Rodriguez and Everett Wilder both finished among the top 20. Rodriguez was 13th in a time of 17:51.07, while Wilder was 20th in 18:08.38. Trey Henderson, Jeremy Hatfield, Kyle Keahey, Ismael Gutierrez and Gerardo Rodriguez helped the Bears to a seventh-place finish.
The Miller Grove boys placed 20th as a team, led by Kevin McDonald in a time of 20:22.65. Yan Heijligers, Aaron Baylus, Seth Roberts and Dakota Regan all ran.
Saltillo's Colten Smith (21:45.61) paced his team, followed by Chase Carr and Brett Moore.
In the girls race, Miller Grove's Combs was joined by teammates Ashley Miller, Victoria Lytle, Angelic Rios, Adrian Estrada and Casey Millard.