FLORENCE — Katrina Thoms is maturing.

In the infancy of her senior season, Gatesville’s cross country standout can see the transformation. Despite all the accomplishments during her career, including three consecutive trips to the state meet, Thoms is confident she continues to grow as a runner.

Saturday, it showed.

After opening the season with a third-place outing at last week’s Temple Invitational, Thoms dominated the field at the Florence Invitational, leading for almost the entire race before crossing the finish line 26 seconds faster than her closest competitor.

Following the victory, she admitted the showing was a byproduct of her development.

“I used to not start quickly,” Thoms said, “but I’ve grown a lot of muscle mass, and playing soccer has given me a lot more explosive speed for the start without wasting a ton of energy. So, now I’m starting quicker, and I don’t fight amongst the center of the pack.

“I’ve always felt very comfortable ahead, but now I can relax and still keep the same pace instead of being behind somebody, tensing up and tiring quickly.”

Thoms posted a time of 12 minutes, 40.70 seconds along the two-mile course crisscrossing the Florence High School campus, and just as she was not challenged en route to the title, the Hornets collectively cruised to a team championship.

With Thoms pacing the squad, Gatesville placed three runners in the top four and four in the top eight, scoring a combined 27 points.

Second-place Thrall finished a distant 57 points back.

Hornets sophomore Tasha Thoms recorded a second-place time of 13:07.46, while teammates Grace Penrod (13:11.46) and Caitlyn Chacon (14:03.62) were fourth and eighth overall, respectively. Payton Armstrong (14th, 14:25.22) rounded out Gatesville’s score.

“We all had great races,” said Tasha Thoms, who qualified for state as a freshman. “We all held our ground and our positions, and we all finished under 15 minutes. I’m really proud of the team.

“Our confidence is through the roof right now.”

And they are not alone.

Gatesville also emerged from the meet with the boys team title after placing all five runners among the top 13, including three in the top five.

“Those guys are competitors,” Hornets head coach Elliott Kelley said, “and they are working hard in practice, which is a downfall they used to have.

“That shows me they are committed, and they are going to put in the work they need to in order to succeed.”

Gatesville teammates Luis Macias (17:41.78) and Jeffrey Tesar (18:19.92) claimed silver and bronze medals, respectively, while Miles Barnes (5th, 18:32.52), Carlo Martinez (12th, 19:14.95) and Ramon Medina (13th, 19:24.44) completed the team’s scoring.

Now, the Hornets turn their attention toward Friday’s Pro-Fit Invitational at Temple, and Tasha Thoms is determined to not allow the standard set at Florence to slip.

“We have to maintain our competitive mentality,” she said. “With all of us pushing each other, though, its easy to remain hungry.

“We all push each other no matter what, and it just comes down to whoever is having the better race that day.”

FLORENCE GROWS FROM EXPERIENCE

Doug Ingraffia knows his teams are not ready to compete, but he knows they will be.

The Buffaloes and Lady Buffaloes did not field a team during their home meet due in part to graduation robbing the program of a majority of its roster. Now, in a rebuilding mode, many of Florence’s harriers are competing at the varsity level sooner than expected.

While it might limit the Buffaloes’ and Lady Buffaloes’ opportunities for medals now, the experience should benefit their chances in the future, according to their head coach.

“A lot of these kids are just seeing what a varsity race is like,” Ingraffia said. “This is giving them something to aspire to.

“Sometimes it’s better to not medal and have to struggle just to finish in the top half of a race.”

Vanessa Mora delivered Florence’s top showing, placing 28th with a time of 15:17.48, while teammate Diana Ramirez (31st, 15:33.91) finished soon after. Savannah Podhajsky (46th, 16:33.24) and Victoria Medrano (50th, 17:16.55) also competed for the Lady Buffaloes.

Jonathan Martinez was the Buffaloes’ lone competitor, finishing 55th overall with a time of 24:16.14.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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