TAPPS distance running is in a good place. The running scene is good with solid individuals and teams and that's how it always has been. Over the years, they've had the excitement with teams like Dallas Ursuline Academy and Houston St. Agnes battling back and forth. This year, the season ending is turning out to be one of the best ever.
Last year, TAPPS was represented at both national cross country championships by one runner. Fort Worth Christian graduate Carter Cheeseman qualified for both Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals.
TAPPS will once again be represented in both championship races, but it will be by different athletes. In fact, three athletes will represent TAPPS in national championship races over the next two weeks. The way it has all happened has been almost magical.
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Abraham Avila-Martinez - Austin San Juan Diego
Martinez is the 2019 TAPPS 2A state champion. He won with a 15:37.50 before waiting four weeks to race again at Nike Cross Nationals South Regional (NXR South). His 15:27.40 and fourth place finish was good for a qualifying position to his first post season national championship.
He dropped almost a minute from his previous PR coming into the season. He also dropped 41 places from last year's NXR South meet.
Martinez' 2019 track season is where he really started to show promise by dropping 4:20.04 (1600m) and 9:17.83 (3200m) PRs prior to this cross country season.
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Ben Shearer - The Woodlands Christian
Ben Shearer shares his thoughts post NXR South race about qualifying for NXN
Shearer is kind of in the same boat as Martinez. He had a good end to the 2018 cross country season and then was straight fire last track season. This cross country season, was the wait, watch, and see how he would carry that into the cross country season.
Shearer ended up doing pretty well. He carried his spring PRs of 1:58, 4:25, and 9:14 into this fall and rode the momentum to a great regular season. He started the cross season with a nice and swift 9:34 3200m on the cross country course back in August.
With top 10 finishes the entire season and only his first race of the season not faster than last year's best, he began to answer the question about whether he would continue the momentum. Along with a 15:03 and a TAPPS 6A state championship, Shearer had a month to prepare for NXR South. "UIL (runners) had to peak for state two weeks ago and for me, I was peaking for this meet this time, I've had these strong workouts these last two weeks," Shearer said. "I've been putting in the work, gaining the experience in UIL races I knew where I needed to be, I knew what I needed to do, and I just went out there and did it."
Just a junior, this is the right time for Shearer to run himself to this type of level. National notoriety is something that is earned. With it comes a lot of perks, but it also opens athletes up to a different level of recruiting, the likes we saw with Cheeseman. "I think TAPPS runners fly under the radar, but there's a few outliers that show up and prove everybody wrong, I think it's cool."
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Camille Napier - Houston St. Agnes
Napier had a dazzling race this past weekend in North Carolina to place in the top 10 out of girls from all of the southern states. She showed the ability to handle the fast paces, the weather conditions, and a tough course.
Napier, just a sophomore has cracked the code of national level qualifying meets that can often times stump some of the most talented of runners. Over the last two cross country seasons, she has managed to help lead her St. Agnes team to two consecutive TAPPS 6A team state championships, as well as last spring's state track and field state title.
She was able to navigate the deep field and move up each mile until she entered the top 10 and held on. "I was trying to pass as I could and keep trying to move ahead."
Not being one of the first names to think of when you initially think of Texas distance runners, Napier perhaps is changing that moving forward. Her 17:27 on a legit 5,000m courses is one of the top times in Texas and qualifying as one of only 40 girls nationally to Foot Locker Nationals is a big deal, "I'm really excited, it's my first Nationals."
TAPPS runners are showing despite a smaller pool of runners they can match up pound for pound with other runners. This December, the small conference will be going pound for pound against the best distance runners in the nation.