Harlingen High sweeps District 32-6A cross country team titles

San Benito High School host a varsity boys and girls cross country meet Friday morning. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

SAN BENITO — The District 32-6A cross country meet was highly competitive Friday morning, but one program stood out above the rest.

Harlingen High swept the meet, winning both the boys and girls team championships by seven points each to advance to the regional meet. Cardinals coaches Efrain Ambriz and Eder Ramos and their players nervously awaited the official results as the top three teams in each division performed well, and they were excited to get back on top.

Weslaco High senior Amity Ebarb dominated the girls race to win the individual title with a time of 18 minutes, 34.1 seconds to repeat as district champion. Harlingen High’s Victoria Scarberry and Ayianna Olivas finished second and third, respectively.

“It feels really good, especially since it’s my senior year,” Ebarb said. “I worked so hard for this, especially since we only had three weeks of practice with our coach. I felt really good with my time because I’ve been improving every week and I just wanted to come out and improve, especially with the hills. In the back there was a lot of wind, which was really hard, but it felt really good.”

The Lady Cardinals tabbed a team score of 46 with Annabel Reyes coming in eighth, Stephanie Suarez in 14th and Rebeca Garcia in 20th. Harlingen South was second with a team score of 53. The Lady Hawks scored Arianna Rodriguez (sixth), Alex Perez (seventh), Alexis Fonseca (10th), Aliyah Fonseca (12th) and Annalea Cano (19th) to slimly beat Weslaco High (58 points) to qualify for the regional meet.

Ramos and Ambriz said the girls team title was extra special because it has been “something like 20 years” since the last time they won district. The Lady Cardinals finished as the top team at every meet they attended this season.

“It feels great. We were focused but a bit nervous because it hadn’t been done in a long, long time,” Ramos said. “The girls were just trying to keep those nerves channeled in the right direction. They threw down all they had, so I’m really proud of them. (Waiting for results) was anxiousness like you wouldn’t believe. I was walking back really slowly because I didn’t want to find out. It was pretty heart-stopping.”

Each of the three top girls teams had all five scored runners finish inside the top 20. Brownsville Hanna (80), Los Fresnos (107) and Donna North (121) rounded out the field. Hanna’s Brissa Stinson was fourth and Los Fresnos’ Jasmine Ponce was ninth to qualify as individuals.

Harlingen High’s boys team was led by junior Geovany Cisneros, who ran an incredibly tight race against Brownsville Hanna’s John Abrego. The two were side-by-side for much of the course, and in the final stretch leading to a turn to the finish line, Cisneros found an extra gear to win the individual title in 15:22.1. Abrego was second with a time of 15:29.4.

“I just felt dead, but you have to have that mindset of who wants it more. That’s what it came down to,” Cisneros said. “It felt good. I just really wanted to bring the district title back to Harlingen (High), and it feels good to be able to help the team out. Tough race. The team title is what I want more than anything.”

The Cardinals also scored Ivan Montante (fifth), Abel Montante (sixth), Carlos Marchand (13th) and Oscar Martinez (19th) to win the team title with a score of 44 despite losing a runner to injury early in the race. Donna North (51) qualified as the second-place team behind strong performances from Oscar Salas (seventh), Benjamin Rubio (eighth), Marc Corpus (10th), Jose Torres (12th) and Nathaniel Rubio (14th).

“It was a lot tighter than we expected. It’s an amazing feeling,” Ambriz said. “It has been a two-year drought. We won a couple in a row a few years back and we hadn’t won in a while. It’s great. John (Abrego is) a tremendous competitor. Geo (Cisneros) had it in his mind he wanted to win this race. We told him, ‘If it’s close and you’re there, go ahead and go for it,’ and I’m so happy for him to be district champion.”

Brownsville Hanna (78) finished third, followed by San Benito (93), Weslaco High (101), Harlingen South (128) and Los Fresnos (135). Weslaco High’s Derek Rodriguez (third), San Benito’s Roy Gomez (fourth) and Harlingen South’s Pedro Cervantes (ninth) qualified as individuals.