ROUND ROCK — Empowered by his team’s senior leaders, La Feria’s Jose Dominguez rose to the occasion to front the program’s first top-10 team finish in school history at the University Interscholastic League state cross country championship meet Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Dominguez said. “Because we had never done it (before.)”
The junior finished 26th overall with a time of 16:31.1 in the Class 4A boys 5,000 meter race. The Lions (248 points) were rounded out on the scoresheet by senior Anthony Cepeda (16:38.01), sophomore Joshua Marquez, senior Santos Botello (17:26.51) and junior Ethan Torres (17:27.19).
“The boys ran a good race,” La Feria boys coach Joe Martinez. “We had some young guys that ran very well. It was a pretty consistent race. … Top 10 is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
That consistency enabled Dominguez to take the reins when he was most needed on the biggest stage. In his third trip to Round Rock, the first of which took place during his freshman season, Botello, who admitted he didn’t race as well as he wanted to, and Cepeda both said they were proud of their teammate for embracing his newfound opportunity and were eager to see him continue his success in his senior season.
“We’ve done it all year in practice, we try to stay together to keep our points down,” Botello said. “It ended up working out for us at district and regionals, and (at state).”
The Progreso boys placed third in Class 4A with 135 points, as seniors Jonathan Vega (16:06.32) and Gerardo Gallardo (16:11.44) finished 15th and 17th, respectively, to lead the Red Ants.
The Lionettes’ La Feria Marina Villanueva ran a 12:38.24 in the 3,200 meter Class 4A girls race and finished 36th in her third straight trip to the state meet, an improvement of nearly 12 seconds from her sophomore state performance. Zapata’s Adan Jonjuitud also ran as an individual qualifier in the boys division and posted a time of 16:05.44, finishing 21st.
“I’ve been blessed to have several injury-free seasons,” Villanueva said. “I just want to get better every year. That way I can surprise myself each year and set more goals for myself.”
A pair of Brownsville boys who qualified as individuals had specific target times they were aiming to finish under — and both of them accomplished their objectives. Hanna sophomore John Abrego had been aiming to hit a sub-16:00 5K since the regional meet, and did so with a 15:56.47 that put him in 77th place in Class 6A. Brownsville IDEA Frontier junior Victor Leos broke the 17-minute barrier with a 16:59.1 to finish 44th in Class 3A.
“(Abrego is) just a sophomore,” Hanna coach Olya Teran said. “He’s going to work harder and get better. … He was able to run under 16 (minutes) on the toughest course he’s run on all season.”
Abrego said San Benito’s Joaquin Medina texted him a note of support ahead of his race. Medina — a state qualifier who placed sixth at the Region IV Class 6A championship in Corpus Christi — attended the state meet but did not compete due to a pulled hamstring.
“I did want to give him a big thank you,” Abrego said. “The (message from Medina) was on my mind this whole week. I (am thankful for) all the people that have run with me (from the Rio Grande Valley) this season. … My community is my support (base), and that’s what gets me to come to places like this.”
The top team from the Rio Grande Valley in Class 6A was Donna North, which placed 16th. The Chiefs were fronted by Jorge Ponce, who ran a 16:05.96 to finish 95th. The fastest 6A boy from the Valley was PSJA North’s Hector Solis, who posted a 15:30.22 to end up 34th. Jeremy Nino, a senior from Edinburg Vela, placed 67th with a time of 15:48.83. La Joya Juarez Lincoln’s Freddy Calvillo (15:55.27) finished 76th, one spot ahead of Abrego.
Mission High’s Leila Arriola (18:41.12) was the fastest girl representing the Rio Grande Valley in Class 6A. Weslaco East’s Tessie Garcia (18:44.07) placed 51st, and Weslaco High’s Amity Ebarb (18:58.03) was 65th.
Santa Rosa’s Desiree Guerra (13:40.74) finished 108th out of 150 runners in the Class 3A girls division’s 3,200 meter race.
In Class 5A, the Sharyland High girls posted an eighth-place finish, led by sophomore Danielle Salinas (18:43.54) and senior Ana Hernandez (18:47.40).
In the boys division, Edcouch-Elsa featured two top-20 finishers. Seniors Albino Rodriguez (15:36.78) and Dominik Medrano (15:37.66) placed 17th and 18th overall, and the Yellowjackets finished 14th as a team.
Also in 5A, Samuel Martinez (15:50.80) was 40th in the individual standings for Donna High. PSJA Memorial junior Williams Macias (16:03.84) finished 55th. Mercedes’ Lupe Reyes ran a 16:15.47, good for 75th.