Girls cross country in the Lone Star state has a rich and storied tradition.
To be called the best in Texas is no small accomplishment. Only a few can claim that title and only one per year can call themselves the best in the largest classification Texas has.
Keller was able to accomplish exactly that last year, and this year they have been conducting themselves in the way a reigning champion should hope they could. Back in 2015, they placed third at the 6A UIL state championships and they were determined to jump to the top spot in 2016.
This season, the ladies from Keller can be seen at meets across the state smiling, hugging, and conversing before and after races. However, when race time comes, you can see the look of determination as they compete ferociously week in and week out. They expect to defend their team title this November in Round Rock, and if you had any doubts what their determination for the season is, the t-shirts they wear this season say "New Season, Same Reason."
HOW GOOD IS KELLER?
Keller is good - very good again this season, but how good? Are we looking at Texas' greatest of all time (GOAT)?
This year, they are undefeated on the season. Nobody has really come near them. They are winning meets by landslides and all of this is leading to one place - well, maybe two or three places. This is headed for a show down with the rest of 6A for a state title defense, Nike South Regionals, and NXN.
In their first meet of the season, Keller ran so well, they beat several boys teams. That's right, At the Greenhill Luke's Locker Six-Mile Relay, they started minutes after the boys and still managed to catch up to and finish the six mile course ahead of some of those boys teams.
At Marcus I, the first 5K of the season, they scored 77 points with their #1 runner, Abbey Santoro not running to her full capabilities. Santoro, Texas' top individual returner from last year's 6A state meet finished third on the team and 18th overall in the race. As a team, they finished with a 18:25 team average. Southlake Carroll finished second in the team standings with 121 points.
Weeks later, at the Denton Guyer Prowl In The Park and just their second full team race, they ran for an 18:12 average. They just missed a 15 point perfect score when one runner was able to break up the 1-5 sweep and they scored 17 overall team points. Keller Timber Creek, who ran a very strong race that day was the second place team with 68 points.
This past weekend, at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival, Keller scored only 50 points and won a major invitational by 115 points ahead of the second place team with an 18:18 team average.
Does their dominance and large margins of victories qualify them as the best Texas has ever seen?
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Keller has team 5K averages of 18:12, 18:18, and 18:25 for the three meets they've competed in this season. When you take their seasons bests, they come out with a 18:09.86 team average and a total time of 1:30:49.30. What is impressive is that they have three girls who are running under 18 minutes. Not to mention, Abbey Santoro the #1 returner from last season's state meet is currently running as the #2-3 on the team. Her third place finish at state last year produced a 17:23 PR, which shows she is just waiting on a break out performance. Junior Isabel Van Camp is running lights out this season and has currently assumed the #1 spot for Keller. The addition of Cambria Clark can not be overlooked. Clark currently has a 18:43.28 SB, but has a career best 18:29.39 5K. Also on the team is the 2016 14th place individual finisher Vera Thompson. As a freshman last year, she was their #4 finisher at state with a 18:21.
The fastest girls teams in Texas history have been pretty dominant teams when they ran. In fact, they have come from two specific programs. Southlake Carroll (SLC) and Humble Kingwood had a stretch of years when they pretty much alternated championship years between the two.
The fastest teams over the years have been the 2001 Kingwood girls, the 2004 Kingwood and SLC girls, as well as both the 2005 and 2012 Southlake Carroll teams.
In 2001 , Kingwood won the state meet with a 32 point score. They practically dominated the State meet and almost placed their entire scoring team in the top ten as they missed out with their 5th runner coming in 12th place.
The significance is the average time of the team. Back then, girls only ran two miles and not 5K, and the Kingwood girls averaged 11:20. That is a 5:40 per mile pace, so if you add another 5:40 for the third mile then you'd get a average of 17:00 for three miles. Add the extra time for the additional 200m which is 42.5 for a 5:40 mile and you get 17:42.5. Now, that is pretty superior to Keller's 18:09.86 team average, but the reality that the Kingwood girls would have sustained the 5:40 pace throughout the last 1,800m is slim. There would have been some time lost with fatigue and deceleration disabling them to maintain the 5:40 pace. The team average could easily reach 18 minutes.
The 2004 season was a throw down season and state meet between Kingwood and SLC. Both teams ended up as two of the best Texas girls teams ever, however Kingwood once again won the title that season, but the difference was very slim. With 11:24 and 11:26 team averages, these two teams would have have similar 5K times as the 2001 Kingwood squad.
Another one of the top all time Texas teams and an interesting measure for Keller, is the 2005 SLC team. At state, SLC won with a 11:23 two mile average. Just three seconds behind the overall time from the 2001 Kingwod squad. That year, SLC went to the Foot Locker South Championships and ran the 5K course. They came away with a total time of 18:06.4 team average and a 1:30.32 total time.
One of the other top all time Texas teams was the 2012 SLC team. They are a likely team to compare to Keller. They won the state meet by a large margin over Kingwood that year. Texas had finally moved the girls XC distance to 5K at the state meet. SLC was dominant and won with a 18:11.56 average and a 1:30.58 over all time.
A week later, that same SLC team won the NXN South Regional title with almost the same stat line.