We all know that Texas is full of stud runners. There are so many in every nook and cranny that you look. West Texas is a broad area and we may be pushing it by asking this question, but it is a legit question. Who is the best in the west?
There are some outstanding runners in the Panhandle, El Paso, and Midland/Odessa area and more. Things are starting to crank up and this weekend, several of the boys out west will be lacing up the spikes at the Nike Desert Twilight meet.
To start things off, when talking about West Texas, you have to keep Mr. Michael Abeyta in mind. The El Paso Hanks star has been one of the best and most successful individual runners in the area ever since Daniel Bernal graduated from Eastwood.
Abeyta has several state medal finishes including championships between track and cross country. This year, he has notched a big win at the Southlake Carroll Invitational and another one at the El Paso Canutillo Invitational, both in sub 15:30 performances.
Another Hanks runner, Roger Rivera also has a nice sub 15:30 win under his belt on the season. Rivera won the El Paso Montwood Race To Midnight way back in August. He has not run since during this season as he focused on college visits.
Only a few people have been able to do what this young man has done. San Elizario junior Edwin Gomez showed what he is made out of last year when he qualified individually for the Nike Cross Nationals and had an impressive showing there. Gomez also has several state titles of his own to boast.
Canyon junior Samuel Ashley is one of the best in the panhandle. He was third last year at the UIL 4A state championships, which could have quietly boasted some of the best boys runners last year. Ashley has a 16:04 on the record for the 2019 season, showing that he is just now getting warmed up.
El Paso Coronado senior Nicholas Gonzalez led a fast group of runners at the Parkland/Riverside Invitational. His 15:19 PR is the fastest in the west this year and sets him up for a good back end of the season as he prepares to improve on his 21st place finish from state last year.
Odessa Permian senior Josh Garcia had been hovering around the 16 mid area for the start of the season. That all changed quickly at the MileSplit meet. Garcia mixed it with the DFW guys and rode the momentum to a big time finish going 15:32, which was a PR by 16 seconds.
Tornillo senior Ofir Ortega has been cruising through his senior year. He has gradually improved throughout the year. He started off with a win at the El Paso Fabens Las Islas Invitational in 16:29, then a fourth place finish in 16:15 at the Tyler Lee/UT-Tyler Cross Country Classic and then a 15:50 PR at the MileSplit TX XC Invitational hosted by Denton Guyer. Ortega is a veteran and has been repping the west on the running scene. He now looks to return to the state meet for 2019.
Perhaps the hottest runner in the west is Eastwood's Elias Perez. He put his school, city, and state on his back at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic last week in California. Perez blazed to a top 10 finish against some of the best runners on the West Coast going 14:25 for ninth place. He not only beat some big time runners from out there, but he also finished ahead of some of Texas' other star runners.
It is too early to tell who the best runner is out there until they all go head to head. Several of them already have, but it was early into the season. Things are fluid throughout a cross country season and as we get close to the nitty gritty point of things, we will surely be shown who the top dog of them are in due time.
Until then, have fun watching these guy improve and prepare for championship season. Who knows, we might even get a clearer picture of things this weekend at Desert Twilight.