LAMPASAS — Jaci McGregor left no doubt.
Looking to earn a second consecutive cross country district championship, the Salado sophomore was never challenged Thursday morning, leading the pack from start to finish en route to claiming the District 27-4A title.
Following the race, McGregor admitted getting ahead quickly was her strategy all along.
“I wanted to start out as fast as I could,” she said. “I need to find my stride and get ahead of everybody else but not to the point where I die out.
“So, I wanted to push it for about 200 meters and then get into my pace.”
Within the first half mile of the 2-mile course, McGregor opened a 20-second lead, and the gap continued to grow until crossing the finish line in 12 minutes, 2.09 seconds — 51.4 seconds ahead of teammate Anna Lesley (2nd, 12:54.3).
The pair propelled the Lady Eagles to a second-place finish and the accompanying berth at the upcoming Region IV-4A meet.
Catalina Langlitz (7th, 13:03.2), Samantha Vargas (12th, 13:20.1) and Taylor Rich (14th, 13:21.4) rounded out Salado’s scoring. The Lady Eagles accumulated 36 points and finished just three points behind champion Liberty Hill.
Racing along its home course, Lampasas (3rd, 71) also advanced to regionals, placing all five of its runners in the top 20.
Taylor Moore (4th, 13:01.1), Abby Valdez (10th, 13:11.6), Mackenzie Best (18th, 13:30.2), Anabelle Brack (19th, 13:40.5) and Caitlyn Townsend (20th, 13:43.0) scored for the Lady Badgers.
In the boys division, Salado teammates Hunter Haas (2nd, 16:24.3) and Logan Rickey (4th, 16:41.4) led the Eagles to regionals as the squad placed second with 73 points. Grant Sellers (19th, 18:16.2), Horacio Huerta (21st, 18:44.2) and Isaac Huerta (27th, 18:52.2) completed Salado’s scoring.
Liberty Hill dominated along the 3-mile trek with its first five runners finishing in the top eight, winning the team title with 29 points. Austin Eastside Memorial (75) placed third to earn the final regional berth.
The host Badgers were fourth with 91 points.
With a time of 17:48.3, Cody Hinson placed 12th to pace Lampasas, while Qadir Tolliver (14th, 17:55.0), Eric Flores (18th, 18:13.1), Jon Davis (23rd, 18:45.0) and Zack East (24th, 18:50.2) followed.
Now, the Eagle, Lady Eagles and Lady Badgers turn their attention toward the regional meet Oct. 22 at Corpus Christi, where the top four teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state meet.
For McGregor, who placed seventh at state last year with a school-record time of 11:53.29, moving on means everything.
“This feels great,” she said. “I worked hard over the summer and went to a lot of cross country camps, so I put in a lot of work, and it is paying off.”