Rio Grande City senior Alex Canales ran a SB 16:00 this weekend to win the RGC Inv.
Finally! That is the sentiment of some high school cross country coaches in Texas. The cross country season started with a lot of questions, changes, and new and unbelievable things to adapt to.
Teams have had take so many precautions throughout the 2020 season just to make it to this week. This week marks the beginning of the championship season where teams and individuals have to qualify in order to continue to their seasons.
There was a point when coaches stressed whether or not the precautions they would take within their teams along with the measures athletes and families took outside of cross country would allow them to make it this far. A positive test or an athlete getting sick could sideline an entire team for 10-14 days of quarantine and possibly cause some to miss districts therefore ending their season.
Finally, they have made it to district week and are on their way towards the end of the season.
For teams in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas and South Texas, the sentiment of "finally" takes on another meaning. They are finally getting their season going when others are in preparations for the end.
COVID-19 had a longer lasting affect on the region and local governments restricted cross county teams to start running. The RGV teams weren't allowed to assemble and coaches weren't able to begin practicing with their teams until September 28th and the first weekend of competition was October 2-3.
Now, just 3-4 weeks later, it's district championship time and the South Texas teams will attempt to use the next 2-3 weeks fine tuning their fitness to race against teams who are 5-6 weeks ahead of them and in peak fitness.
Edinburg Economedes' girls coach Brenda Lozano is happy with her team's performance at this time of the year. "This is only our third week of practice," she said as her girls had to take ownership of their own season and train on their own. "They all had to do things on their own and it's a good thing they did."
Lozano found out how much her girls wanted it, "There were some obstacles that we had to face, but I'm pretty excited for what we have done in a short amount of time."
In some parts of South Texas, districts are only allowing 10 athletes to compete and only at the varsity level. Without a JV season, coaches have the challenge of keeping athletes who can't compete motivated to be ready for track season or next cross country season whenever they are able to return to normal.
District races later on this week affected some meets this past weekend. The Rio Grande City Inv. had some teams back out. "We were scheduled to have more teams here this weekend. With some of the district meets on Thursday they decided to pull out. We still had a good showing and there were some fast times," RGC boy's head coach Joe Ramirez said.
As for the season, Ramirez said, "It's a work in progress right now, it's been hectic down here in the whole Valley. This is only our second meet." It's gotten hard, we just have to roll with the punches, hopefully we can send some kids to the regional meet."
Rio Grande City senior Alex Canales is one of many South Texas runners who had to do just that and he performed well over the weekend. On what Coach Ramirez says is a slow course, Canales ran a 16:00 PR. Normal years, "a 16:10 on this course would be a fast time. We told him his 16:00 should be around a 15:40 or 15:45 on another course", admitted Ramirez.
Sharyland junior Danielle Salinas also ran well over the weekend and is gaining traction heading into this weekend's district meet. "I've been able to get better every meet. The pandemic has cost her so far this season though as she is running about 40 seconds behind her PR, but Salinas looks to continue her improvement. I like training on my own, but it's a lot different than training with the team, not as motivating, the team pushes me more. Other than that, I think it's been a good season," Salinas said.
As the RGV is finally able to run, they are still slightly behind the rest of the state with regionals approaching where they'll compete against teams who are weeks ahead of them. Coach Ramirez' advice fo the Valley is, "we aren't assured tomorrow or the next meet, just run lights out!"