Big 5A Team Battles - Morris And Culbreath Get Repeat Wins

The UIL 5A classification has two national level individual runners who won the individual titles. McKinney North junior London Culbreath ran to her third individual title and Aledo sophomore Graydon Morris won his second straight individual win.

Culbreath who is on a mission to have a better finish than last season knows that any improvement was to begin yesterday. 

After the first 800m, she created herself a five second lead by time she reached the mile marker as she reached it in 5:27. She then cranked things up to double her lead each mile as she reached the 2 mile in 10:56 with an 10 second lead and then finishing in 16:58 with an 18 second lead. 

Regardless of time, running strong during the second half of races will be critical in her quest for an outstanding finish to the season.

With winning her third cross country title, this brings her total championship total to seven in as many attempts at state meets. 

Following Culbreath was Montgomery sophomore Allison Wilson who finished for second. Much like Culbreath, she will be looking for a better finish to last season as well. That could have began already. Wilson's season is better than last season up to this point. A better finish would be huge as she was a top 10 finisher at state last year and then finished at 35th at NXN.

The other top five finishers were Frisco Reedy sophomore Colleen Stegmann in 17:16 for third , Frisco Wakeland senior Isabella West for fourth, and Highland Park sophomore Sophia Oliai in 18:20 for fifth.

After placing third his freshman year, Morris won his second consecutive 5A state title. This perhaps was the toughest race of his three races at the state meet.

He would have to face his usual 5A foe in El Paso Hanks' Michael Abeyta, but he would also have to battle the "Mayor" of the Rio Grande Valley in Cruz Gomez of PSJA Memorial

For Morris, he was just one of many in a pack of 20 guys coming through at the 1600m marker at 4:53 - 4:54. By the two mile marker, it slightly dwindled down to 15 guys as they came though at 9:51 - 9:52. From there it was all up to him as the pack tried to stick together until a move was made.

The move was eventually made and as many guys  that could would try to go with him. However, Morris' experience and usual masterful kick reigned supreme on yesterday. He would drive home to the finish line to finish in 15:03.98.

Aside from who won this battle of elite 5A studs, perhaps the story line of the individual race was who finished right behind Morris and who didn't.

It was expected that a 1, 2, 3 finish would have Morris, Abeyta, and Gomez in any kind of order. However, the next two guys to cross the line were two unheralded seniors from Austin LBJ.

Cameron Kleiman and Yaseen Abdalla and their teammates were the surprise of the race. Kleiman could be expected to medal as he did last year with his 8th place finish, but Abdalla was one that nobody saw coming. They duo finished second and third ahead of both Gomez and Abeyta and a host of other 5A studs. Gomez and Abeyta would both follow right behind the LBJ duo in fourth and fifth place. 

Team wise, the Frisco Wakeland girls won the girls race as they were victorious off the hinges of their senior leader Isabella West's fourth place overall finish. West led her team to an eight point win over a strong Boerne Champion squad who has been hungry all year long.

For the 5A boys the entire season was focused on this one day. 

El Paso Eastwood finally captured the state championship they have long desired. It nevertheless, it didn't come easy.

In perhaps the most difficult 5A boys race in a long time, they were able to beat two time defending champions Lucas Lovejoy. Eastwood ran a 15:42 team average with a 30 second split having the entire top five ran 16:00 and under.

Continuing with their meet surprise, Austin LBJ not only placed their top two guys in the top three individually, they cracked the top three in the team standings. LBJ took down the top three teams from last years state meet as they placed second overall. Their top five guys ran to a 15:45 team average en route to their upset, which was the highest finish by a team from Austin in UIL history. 

Lovejoy would go on to finish third adding to their collection of state meet trophies. They also dropped a sub 16 minute team average by goin 15:51 with a 1:08 split.