Neither Rain Nor Wind Nor Cold: Ramirez, Sanchez emerge from elements to help SSHS qualify for regional meet

By BOBBY"BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 23, 2007 - MOUNT PLEASANT - It's not unusual to see a Sulphur Springs runner leading the pack at the boys' district cross country meet. But, coach Andy Holt saw an unusual sight Monday - an SSHS girl leading the way.

Holt was stationed a mile into the two-mile girls' race at the District 11-4A meet contested on the campus of Mount Pleasant High School. When a runner came around the corner, he saw the familiar singlet of senior Ana Sanchez leading the way.

Sanchez held onto first place, joining classmate Tate Ramirez on the boys side as the district individual champions. Both runners led their teams to regional berths after the Wildcats won the district title by 30 points and the Lady Cats finished third.

The regional meet is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 3 at Vandergriff Park in Arlington.

Running in a drizzling rain, cool weather and gusty wind, the Wildcats won their third straight district championship and had the individual winner for the third consecutive season as well. The previous two years, it was Graham Northcutt, now running for Texas A&M University.

On Monday, it was Ramirez, who was competing in his second meet since sitting out a month with a stress fracture in his femur. He and his first cousin, Tyler Wilson, took the early lead in the 3.1-mile race and held the 1-2 position for the first half of the course.

Ramirez finished the race on the Sam Parker Field track in a time of 16 minutes, 25 seconds. Wilson came in fifth in 17:10, and three other SSHS runners finished in the top 10: freshman Jarod Morgan in seventh in 17:21, junior Omar Ortiz ninth in 17:23, and sophomore Preston Weaver 10th in 17:28.

In fact, all seven of the SSHS runners were in the top 13 in the field as juniors Garrett Gray and Ross Hicks came in 11th (17:37) and 13th (17:50), respectively.

That gave the Wildcats a team score of 32, beating out Lindale (62) and Mount Pleasant (66).

"The conditions weren't great, but everybody has to run in those conditions. We prepared our team for that, and the guys and gals came out and ran hard," said Holt. "We had a great showing as far as the guys go. They peaked at the right time. A lot of them ran PRs or close to PRs, so we were happy about that."

It was the first time this year that all seven varsity runners finished in under 18 minutes.

"They did great. Everybody stepped up," Ramirez said of his teammates. "The weather's awful, but my time was pretty much where I wanted it to be without the weather. So, when you add in the conditions, I think I can go faster."

Holt said Wildcats' workouts had been tailored to put them in the best position to defend their district title.

"We gave them Saturday and Sunday off, and we tapered some of our running this week, trying to get their legs fresh," he explained. "Hopefully, at regionals, we'll come out and run even faster."

Holt is hoping that Ramirez and maybe Wilson will finish in the top 10 at the regional meet, which will qualify them for state.

"Tate performed very well yesterday. This was his second meet back, and he performed very well," Holt said. "He was challenged by a runner from Lindale and two from Mount Pleasant, and came out on top."

Lindale's Erling Johnson finished in second place, four seconds behind Ramirez.

Girls

Sanchez went to the front of the pack almost immediately, leading Lindale's Morgan Reynolds and North Lamar's Britnie Milner throughout the race.

Sanchez broke the tape in a time of 13:17, which was seven seconds better than Reynolds. Lindale, which had three runners in the top 10, won the meet with 39 points. North Lamar finished second with 51, and Sulphur Springs was third with 65.

SSHS junior Katie Dodd placed 11th overall in a time of 14:23, while three others runners were in the top 20: senior Kelsey Evans 16th in 14:50, freshman Julie Hromcik 18th in 15:01 and sophomore Kaci Crowson 19th in 15:08.

Their close grouping helped the Lady Cats hold off Mount Pleasant for the final regional berth.

Freshmen Sabrina Hutchings and Samantha Owens finished 33rd and 34th, respectively, in the same time of 16:00.

"Ana Sanchez went out and took the lead and held it," Holt said. "I'm very happy and very proud to see how she ran.

"The girls needed to get at least third, and they did exactly what they had to do."

Junior Varsity

The JV boys were perfect, placing first through fifth to garner a score of 15, the lowest possible.

Andrew Wallace won the JV race, ran totally in rain, in a time of 18:03, while Victory Gonzalez was second in 18:25, Chris White was third in 18:26, Eric Hartin fourth in 18:28 and Jesus Torres fifth in 19:15.

After that, SSHS runners finished in places seventh through 10th behind the efforts of Bailey Booher (19:22), Triston Crook (19:35), Tyler Usher (19:37) and Tanner Bolton (19:54).

Also running for the Wildcats were Cody Brown, Pablo Olquin, Andy Ginn and Ben Watson.

"They dominated with a perfect score," Holt said. The JV ran well and were district champs.

"It was a great day for us all around, and I'm proud of the way we ran."

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