II6-A Regional Track Meet (Day 2)

Belton freshman Olivia Brillhart (1) competes in the 1,600-meter run on April 30 during the Region II-6A Meet at Waco Midway High School in Hewitt.

Runners typically rest before their biggest competitions. Olivia Brillhart did not.

With Thursday’s District 22-5A meet looming, Belton’s sophomore standout traveled across the country last weekend to compete in the 38th-annual Army Ten-Miler – one of the largest races of its kind in the country, attracting approximately 35,000 athletes each year.

Although there was a chance it could hinder her first step toward a second consecutive appearance at the state meet, Brillhart could not resist the opportunity and it paid off as she won her age division en route to placing 72nd among all females.

While there was a fear the extended distance would wear her down, it actually built her up.

“This definitely gives me a confidence boost,” Brillhart said, “because I ran a good race, and now, I know that I am able to do something like this. If I can do 10 miles at this pace, then I can go out and do three.

“This race let me know that I’ll be OK, and it reinforced what I’ve been training for.”

Inspired to take part by her mother’s running group, which participates in the Army Ten-Miler each year, Brillhart recorded a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 47 seconds along the streets of Washington, D.C., to claim the 14-and-under title.

Now, she will attempt to improve on the 6:53 pace and try to help the Lady Tigers capture another district championship after winning the District 12-6A title last year.

Navigating along a three-mile course at Waco’s Heart of Texas Soccer Complex, Belton will be joined by Killeen, Chaparral, Ellison, Shoemaker, Lake Belton, Waco and Waco University at the competition.

Last season, both Belton and Ellison programs advanced, along with the Harker Heights girls and Temple boys, but neither are a concern this year.

Both schools, along with Copperas Cove, Bryan, Hutto, Pflugerville Weiss and Waco Midway, travel Thursday to Pflugerville’s Northeast Metropolitan Park, where Eagles senior Aaron Crittenden and Lady

Knights junior Ella Perry will attempt to repeat as District 12-6A’s individual champions. Each proceeded to earn berths at state last season.

The top three teams and 10 individuals at district advance to the regional meet, where the top four teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team move on to the University Interscholastic League Cross Country State Championships at Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park in early November.

Unlike last year, though, Brillhart does not want to compete alone.

“We all have to be confident in each other and support each other,” she said. “This is what we’ve been training for, so now it is up to us to go out and try our hardest. There is nothing else we can do.

“Running is all about your mindset, so we have to keep each other positive.”

Some teams are already celebrating following Monday’s district meets, including Salado and Gatesville after finishing first and second, respectively, in each division of the District 23-4A meet..

Despite delivering both overall winners in senior Carlo Martinez (15:52.0, 5,000 meters) and sophomore Vania Martinez (12:03.0, two miles), the Hornets could not contend with the Eagles and Lady Eagles, who each placed all five of their runners in the top 15.

In the District 24-4A meet, Lampasas’ boys team qualified for regionals after placing third, while Lady Badgers senior Nyla Long (4th, 12:48.0) advanced as an individual.

Florence also extended its season by winning the District 5-3A boys team championship after Lady Buffaloes sophomore Emily Carbajal-Serrano (5th, 13:45.4) secured her spot at regionals.

All regional meets take place either Oct. 24 or Oct. 25.

While reaching state will not be easy for any area athlete, Brillhart believes she is prepared for the challenge despite her recent 10-mile run.

“I feel great,” Brillhart said. “Originally, I didn’t want to go full out in the race, because I was afraid it might make me too tired for district, but I feel fine. I’ll tweak my training a little, but I’m treating this just like any other race.

“I’m ready to run it.”


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