Jasmine Early stood alone at the finish line.

In a matter of 5,000 meters, Harker Heights’ standout cross country runner separated herself from the field, cruising to a definitive first-place finish to claim the Class 5A-6A individual championship at last week’s Salado Invitational.

Then she waited.

Early’s winning time of 21 minutes, 2.8 seconds was more than 17 seconds faster than Round Rock McNeil senior Maddie Marrone, who was second overall, completing the course in 21:20.1.

With Early leading the way, the Lady Knights were second as a team, tallying 53 points. McNeil won the championship with 28 points, and Manor (59) placed third.

Early’s performance was complemented by top-20 finishes from four of her teammates.

Annika Farr, a sophomore, was 10th individually with a time of 22:49.6, while Julia Arey (15th, 23:49.8) and Grace Wallace (16th, 23:59.2) crossed the finish line consecutively. Natalie Seib rounded out the team’s scoring with a time of 24:50.5 to place 19th overall.

Additionally, J’vanae Deshone (23rd, 25:21.3), Raquel Hatton (25th, 25:35.5) and Re’auna Sanford (26th, 25:37.7) each competed for the Lady Knights, but their scores did not count toward the team total.

The Knights matched their counterparts’ showing at the meet, delivering a silver-medal showing as well.

With three runners placing among the top seven individuals, Harker Heights earned 41 points, narrowly falling to champion McNeil by six points. Shoemaker was third with 75 points behind individual winner Jeremias Serrano V, who completed the course in 16:46.5.

Ronald Ramthum was the Knights’ first finisher. The senior posted a time of 18:49.3.

Harker Heights sophomores Ryan Mittag (18:53.5) and Luke Lawhorn (19:00.8) were sixth and seventh, respectively, while senior Andres Garza’s time of 19:44.7 placed him 11th overall.

Two runners later, Ethan Thomas crossed the finish line for the Knights’ final points with a time of 19:46.0.

Although their scores did not count, the Knights fielded four additional runners.

D’mitri Fraiser was 32nd with a time of 21:42.8, Ryan Chamberlain (21:54.0) finished 34th, and Joshua Noriega (36th, 22:09.7) and Rhandy Hughes (37th, 22:13.1) were separated by less than four seconds.

After competing in six meets to start the season, the Knights and Lady Knights are off this week, recovering before making their final pushes toward the state meet.

Harker Heights returns to action Oct. 6 at the Lampasas Invitational with the District 8-6A Meet scheduled for Oct. 11 at Waco’s Heart of Texas Soccer Complex.

The regional meet will be Oct. 23 in Lubbock, and state is set for Nov. 4.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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