The best may still be yet to come.
Many cross country runners spend their entire high school careers striving to reach the state meet, only to graduate disappointed after coming up short season after season. Countless other harriers steadily build toward the achievement, reaching the sport’s pinnacle as seniors after gradually building the skills to compete at such an elite level.
Four area athletes, however, proved they are worthy of such an accomplishment with time to spare.
Belton’s Olivia Houlden, Gatesville’s Jordan Brock and Rhett Gore, who are each juniors, and Lometa freshman Andrew Arellano all bucked the trend this season by earning trips to the UIL State Championships, where they each finished in the top 100 of their respective races.
For their efforts, the early-blooming quartet has been named to the Killeen Daily Herald’s 2015 All-Area Cross Country First Team along with senior standouts Justin Segura, of Florence, and Salado’s Preston Kimbrough.
While all six runners delivered impressive campaigns, Houlden completed the season as the group’s most decorated.
Houlden was one of 13 athletes placed on the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s Class 6A All-State Team after placing 99th at the state meet with a time of 21 minutes, 5.88 seconds. En route to the honor, she finished second overall at the District 12-6A meet, helping her team earn its third consecutive district championship, and 17th at the Region II-6A meet.
The Gatesville tandem of Brock and Gore also achieved individual and team success throughout the season.
Brock, who also competed in the state meet last season, was the runner-up at the District 17-4A meet before placing ninth at the Region III-4A meet, where the Hornets placed fifth as a team after finishing in the top four at four of their previous five meets, including a pair of second-place showings.
At state, she posted a time of 13:40.25 along the 3,200-meter course, situating her 85th overall.
After losing several key performers from last year’s squad, Gore quickly established himself as Gatesville’s top runner this season, leading the Hornets to three bronze and one silver medal before placing 10th out of 24 teams at regionals. Individually, Gore was fourth at the district meet and qualified for state, where he finished 91st with a time of 18:26.25, with a 21st-place run at the regional meet.
Kimbrough also competed in the Class 4A state meet, capping off his high school career by placing 28th overall, crossing the finishing line in 17:34.87.
One year after coming up one spot shy of reaching the state meet, Kimbrough qualified for the championship race by placing ninth at the Region IV-4A meet. Prior to that, he won the District 25-4A as an individual, along with earning victories at the Pro-Fit Invitational and Belton, Lampasas and Florence meets.
Segura also ended his career at the state’s biggest stage, finishing 95th in the Class 3A race with a time of 18:56.28 after a third-place showing in the Region IV-3A meet. At the District 25-3A meet, he produced a personal-best time en route to winning a bronze medal individually, while also leading his team to a third-place finish.
Despite being the youngest area competitor to reach the state meet, Arellano had the top showing, finishing 17th overall (17:34.87) after earning a spot at the Class 1A race as an alternate. Arellano also helped Lometa win its district championship before the Hornets finished sixth at their regional meet.
Although two of the six all-area first-team selections will be moving on, the remaining quartet each obtained valuable experience this season as they raced all the way to state, meaning the best may still be yet to come.
KDH 2015 ALL-AREA CROSS COUNTRY TEAM
Most Outstanding Runner: Brooke Gilmore, Jr., Belton
Andrew Arellano, Fr., Lometa
Jordan Brock, Jr., Gatesville
Rhett Gore, Jr., Gatesville
Olivia Houlden, Jr., Belton
Preston Kimbrough, Sr., Salado
Justin Segura, Sr., Florence
Amber Boyd, Jr., Copperas Cove
Joshua Branch, Sr., Ellison
Leslie Hardy, Sr., Harker Heights
Nathan Herrin, So., Lampasas
Amber Lambertis, So., Killeen
Taylor Moore, Fr., Lampasas
Kristen nelson, Sr., Shoemaker