Some things have changed a lot during the last year. District 12-6A cross country is not one of them.
Despite soggy conditions from overnight thunderstorms, Belton’s Heritage Park played host to the district meet Thursday morning, and the results were almost identical to 2020.
For the second consecutive season, the Tigers and Lady Tigers swept the team titles and Ellison junior Aaron Crittenden emerged as the boys individual winner, while Harker Heights’ girls and Temple’s and Ellison’s boys each advanced to regionals again.
But not everything remained static.
Lady Knights sophomore Ella Perry captured the girls championship in her district debut, completing the 3-mile course in 18 minutes, 14.7 seconds, and the Lady Eagles easily earned their first trip to the Region II meet since 2006, replacing Temple from last year.
Nobody could dethrone Belton on its home course, though.
Paced by overall runner-up Zach Dennison (2nd , 16:06.1), the Tigers placed all five of their runners in the top 14, while the Lady Tigers had four top-eight finishers, including freshman Olivia Billhart, who was third with a time of 18:54.2.
Shannon Cook (6th , 20:16.9), Hailey Schutz (7th , 20.28.1) and Liliana Nelson (8th, 20:29.1) crossed the finish line consecutively for Belton before teammate Lesa Doskocil (18th , 21:29.4) rounded out the team’s scoring, giving the Lady Tigers 42 points.
Perry was immediately followed in the standings by junior teammate Kailynn Denney, claiming second place with a time of 18:42.0, and the pair was complemented by Treasure Bethea (21:08.1) and Aristine Fletcher (21:19.3), who placed 13th and 14th, respectively, to propel Harker Heights to second place with 53 points.
2020 champion Kera Harvey, a junior, placed fifth with a time of 20:06.1 and helped carry the Lady Eagles to 68 points – 25 fewer than fourth-place Temple. Shoemaker (161), Copperas Cove (163), Bryan (178) and Killeen (182) completed the field.
With the top three teams and top 10 individuals advancing to regionals, Shoemaker junior Finley Hunting (4th , 19:41.3), Temple sophomore Rebecca Terry (9th, 20:33.8) and Killeen junior Michaela Mouton (10th, 20:40.8) each also qualified.
The regional meet is scheduled for Oct. 25 at Grand Prairie’s Lynn Creek Park, where the top four teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to state.
The Class 6A state championships will be Nov. 6 at Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park.
In the boys division, a cast of familiar faces returns to regionals, but with some new distinctions.
Although the Tigers repeated as champions, the Eagles and Wildcats flipped positions from a year ago with Ellison placing second with 45 points and Temple scoring 62 points to finish third as each had multiple top-10 finishers.
Neither could compete with Belton’s consistency, though.
All five of the Tigers’ harriers finished within a minute of each other as Clayton Oaks (4th, 16:28.3), Riley Dyck (7th, 16:40.2), David Duncan (13th, 16:54.4) and Briac Ybanez (14th, 16:59.1) followed Dennison, a senior, to help Belton produce a field-low 40 points.
Ellison finished five points behind the Tigers despite Crittenden’s championship time of 15:49.4 and teammate Edwin Vega Oliveras’s fifth-place time of 16:38.9.
Temple (62) had three top-10 showings – Tyson Tamez (3rd, 16:18.2), La’Ron Alexander (9th, 16:46.4) and
Anthony Soto (10 th, 16:51.0) – en route to creating a 56-point gap between itself and fourth-place Harker Heights (118).
The Knights, however, will still be represented at regionals as junior Cade Perry posted a time of 16:43.5 to place eighth. Ayden Seymour, a Copperas Cove senior, also earned a regional berth, placing sixth with a time of 16:40.0.
The Bulldawgs (6th, 140) finished 13 points behind Bryan (5th, 127), while Shoemaker had 169 points to place seventh. Killeen did not field a complete team.