The 2019 NXR South meet was a battle of history and an uprising of a new powerful program. Southlake Carroll and The Woodlands are Texas distance running royalty. Together, they have won more state meet trophies than the field combined.
A certain team from the west is establishing themselves as a program to be reckoned with. El Paso Eastwood has been making gains year after year and improving despite graduating key performers year after year.
What a difference two weeks makes. State meet winners haven't faired well at the South Region in recent years. Southlake Carroll was determined not to allow that to happen this year.
Carroll ran the best team race of the day. With some of the best teams in the state going heads up again, the Dragons were able to once again put down another undeniable performance this season. A 85 point effort with a 40 second gap ensured their return trip to Portland.
Senior Nate Lannen led the way with his 10th place finish in 15:40.32. His low stick performance was important as he was able to keep pace with the top runners from Flower Mound, The Woodlands and Eastwood's top two punch. He got help up front from junior Solomon Chavez, but the reinforcement came from the 3 - 5 guys for Carroll.
The Dragon three and four runners were able to place themselves ahead of the three runners for The Woodlands and Eastwood. Their fifth also significantly beat their number fives, which sewed up the win for Carroll. Carroll junior, Antonio Florcruz said, "We did a great job in coming out and preparing for this meet today."
The Woodlands has had the most success at the state meet, but were unable to replicate that at NXR South. They hadn't qualified for NXN in three years and ending that streak was a priority, "This year, we came out with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to push ourselves and get to the point where we can get to NXN," senior Aaron Soltmann said.
The Highlanders got their usual performance from their low sticks in Ryan Cardinal and Ethan Hammer. However, they knew they needed more punch from the back of their pack. They got that and it proved to be the difference. "Our three, four, and five guys came up absolutely huge, their ran their hearts off and pulled the team, and that's what a definition of a team is," senior Ethan Hammer said.
Those three, four and five runners closed the gap between their two runner. In fact, that was the key and the only way they were able to beat a tough Eastwood squad. They finished with a 16:10 average and 50 second split.
Heading into the meet, it was Eastwood who seemed to have everything it took to come out with the win. Eastwood had run such an impressive state meet and had the upper hand based on speed ratings. However, the jinx may have gotten to them.
They ran an impressive meet, but with squads who were all capable of running 16:00 and under and sub 60 second splits, there was very little room for error. A typical Eastwood race and they absolutely qualify and perhaps win the region. However, this race was the battle of the three through five runners and that was the deciding factor.