If Walker Hendricks and the rest of the Agua Dulce cross country team look rested, comfortable and at ease while finishing up their early morning workout around the Alice Country Club Saturday morning it’s for good reason.

See, it’s been a week since the Agua Dulce football season ended, which means for the first time this year, most of the Longhorns cross country team is finally able to focus solely on running. Seven of the cross country team’s 10 runners juggled the physical demands of football season and cross country since August.

However with football behind them, the team used all of last week and these last few days leading up to the University Interscholastic League’s state cross country meet on Saturday to finally hit their stride.

It may sound trivial, but with football season over, Agua Dulce cross country coach Gave Rivera believes his team has an edge in the Class 2A state meet this coming Saturday afternoon in Round Rock. The Longhorns are fourth going into the meet, but he believes with fresh legs his squad can finish in the top three.

“If you think about it, all season long, most of our boys were doing football and then running,” Rivera said. “They were playing football games on Friday nights and then getting home late and then having to get up early on Saturdays to make it to cross country. It’s a lot for our kids, especially since most of our boys play both ways — offense and defense. That’s how it is sometimes at small school.”

Hendricks, the team’s top individual runner and a starting receiver and defensive end for the Longhorns, said having football out of the way gives the Longhorns a definite advantage.

“I think it’s going to help us,” he said. “We’ll be better Saturday. I mean, I don’t think anyone expected us to get here, but everyone’s worked very hard and it’s paying off.”

The Agua Dulce boys made school history when they qualified to the state meet at the Class 2A, Region IV meet in Corpus Christi in October. The entire team advanced since they finished the meet in fourth place in the team standings. The team was led by two top 10 finishes by Hendricks and Cruz Garza. Hendricks placed fourth individually, while Garza was 10th.

Each of the UIL’s classifications is running at the state meet in Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park. The boys Class 2A run is set for 2 p.m.

Also running in the Class 2A boys state championship is Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School runner Mikel Escobar. Escobar was second in the Region IV-2A last year and qualified this year by finishing seventh.