High school cross country: Alice girls ride roller coaster season to regional berth
It was harder to qualify for the regional cross country meet this season.
Just ask the Alice girls cross country team.
The UIL limited regional qualification to the top two teams (it is normally three) due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A tight race grew that much more competitive at the District 31-4A meet, but that was the latest obstacle the Alice cross country team has had to overcome in the 2020 season.
With Alice ISD exercising caution at the start of the fall athletic season, the Coyotes did not start practice until the second week of September and ran in half the meets they typically do.
It has been a challenge for coach Marissa Acosta and the Coyotes.
"I sent them the summer training, but it got to a point where it is very hard to stay motivated," Acosta said. "There was a lot of 'maybe next week' and 'maybe next week.' It is hard to stay motivated. They were getting their runs in but maybe not with the right intensity."
Acosta said while the season was a rebuilding year for the boys team, who suffered heavy graduation losses, she knew the girls had a chance to battle for a regional berth in a tough district.
But then as the district meet neared, a positive case in the Alice ISD, shut down athletics, affecting volleyball, football and cross country.
Coaches and players had to provide negative tests to return to competition, and when initial results came back, the district consulted with health officials, who asked for a second negative test from athletes to return before the 14-day suggested quarantine window.
If Alice runners kept to the 14-day window, the Coyotes would have missed even the rescheduled District 31-4A meet, so a second test was vital.
"Everybody got tested when we were required to test," Acosta said. "We were waiting for the results and everything was looking good and then we got another notice that the kids had to test again. We had to test on Tuesday after testing on Thursday.
"We got lucky the district decided to move the meet back. It was very challenging to do the double test. Some of the parents were very frustrated. Some parents decided they didn't want to take them to get tested again. We lost a handful of kids that should have been competing the day of district and didn't."
The Alice boys top two runners did not return and the No. 1 and No. 3 runners also did not compete at the district meet.
"I had two seniors that were going to run on (junior varsity) (Ashley Arrellano, Alaura Cantu) they ended up having to come up and run on varsity for district," Acosta said. "I don't know how we pulled it off, it was close, but we did it."
After the girls race ended, the Alice coaches immediately started adding up the points. The Coyotes finished with 70 and they totaled Robstown's top five runners to get 75, and thought they had second place secured.
"Something didn't feel right," Acosta said. "The scores were pretty high to be second-place contender. We added Calallen up and it was 70 just like us. We looked at whose sixth runner came in first (Daniella Contreras, 21st) and it was us.
"We told the girls, 'If any one of you would not have sprinted in the way you did, or not passed one person, we would be sitting at home right now."
Coyotes senior Jordan Perez snared the last individual boys spot to continue his season, finishing 10th after he told coaches he was going to "go for it" with the top two runners out.
Acosta said the week-plus of practice has been good at Alice and spirits have been high, but the girls team will again be short-handed after a runner will miss the Region IV meet due to a dental procedure.
"We just tried to do our best and stay positive to keep the kids motivated," Acosta said. "Adversity has been right in our face. The kids have been extremely resilient. The kids we've been able to keep with us, are buying in and working hard and doing the right things. We've had a really rough year — everybody has — but we've had so many obstacles that a lot of people doubted what we could accomplish.
"We're just looking forward to another opportunity to race."
REGION IV CROSS COUNTRY MEET
at Dugan Stadium, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Monday, Nov. 9
Class 5A — 8 a.m. girls; 8:30 a.m. boys
Class 3A — 10 a.m. girls; 10:20 a.m. boys
Class A — Noon girls; 12:20 p.m. boys
Tuesday, Nov. 10
Class 6A — 8 a.m. girls; 8:30 a.m. boys
Class 4A — 10 a.m. girls; 10:20 a.m. boys
Class 2A — Noon girls; 12:20 p.m. boys
RUNNERS TO WATCH
BOYS — Paul Snow, Port Aransas; Mathew Moralez, Premont; Zidane Martinez, Miller; Cody Fountain, Gregory-Portland
GIRLS — Jada Johnson, Beeville; Elizabeth Herrick, Tuloso-Midway; Yaneli Aguilar, Skidmore-Tynan; Riley Parker, Rockport-Fulton
High School Cross Country:UIL changes due to COVID-19 add drama to district cross country meets
Quinton Martinez covers all things sports in South Texas. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe