Winning the UIL 6A boys cross country state championship has always been a tough feat to accomplish. Over recent years, it has grown increasingly harder.
It is now down right absurd how good a team has to be on the day of the state championships in order to get on the podium let alone to win the state title.
A few years ago, it was clear that a team would have to run at an average of 16:00, then it was 15:59, then moved to 15:55, and now the bar continues to rise.
Just to be clear, this isn't the case of the same teams having the same runners who continue to develop and get better and faster. The Woodlands and Southlake Carroll have both been a part of improving the standards to high levels of difficulty and are actually most responsible for it. Over the past four or five years they've used mostly different runners in each state meet race.
Last year, Atascocita ran a 16:08 team average at the 5,000m Old Settlers course. More impressively, the Eagles ran with a 13 second compression between their first and fifth runners. In the past, that was good enough to win the state meet, but it only provided them a fourth place finish.
What kept Atascocita off the podium was how well three other teams were able to run. The Woodlands scored 99 points for third place that was helped by a 16:04 team average and a 38 second split. El Paso Eastwood was second with 84 points thanks to a 15:59 team average and a 50 second split. Southlake Carroll won the 2020 UIL 6A team championship by scoring only 78 points with an average and compression of 15:56 and 41, respectively.
With two teams that averaged 15:59 and under as well as the top four teams running with superb splits under 50 seconds, it was another chapter in the recent book of 6A boys high standards.
This year's state meet continued to expose how good teams have to be to even reach the 6A podium. Just to reach the podium for a trophy, teams had to run like a state champion with very little room for mistakes.
It was again the same four teams as last year racing for the podium and taking the top spots.
All four teams looked different than last year. As previously mentioned although the teams are getting faster, there isn't a lot of carry over from the previous year's teams.
Carroll graduated their five scorers from last year, Eastwood graduated four of their scorers, The Woodlands graduated four of their top seven and Atascocita graduated their top three runners at last year's state meet.
None of these four teams had a runner finish on the podium individually. However, Kyle Easton 11th and Pablo Lesarri (15th) for The Woodlands, Andres Gurrola (12th) and Isaac Mendoza (17th) for Eastwood, and David Fisher (18th) and Jude Alvarez (20th) for Carroll all finished in the top 20 individual places.
This emphasizes how good the teams were in the grand scheme of things.
The importance of being fast was just as important and was re-defined at this year's meet. The severity of running tight along with being fast was also highlighted once again.
This year was another 4th place finish for Atascocita, despite how well they ran. A 16:00 team average for the 5,000m course with a 15 second split is just as impressive as last year was for the team. It also further highlighted how hard it is to get a trophy in 6A and how good you have to be.
They scored 133 points and were just one point behind Eastwood who was able to finish third with 132 points.
Eastwood had a fantastic 15:56 team average, which was better than their second place performance last year. Their top four runners were all within 30 second of one another. Their one through five split of 1:16 is what hindered their title winning hopes as well as opened the door for Atascocita.
TEAM SCORES PLACE TEAM POINTS SCORERS TIMES 1 Southlake Carroll 78 2+6+19+25+26 (34+47) 0:41 1-5 Split | 15:56 Avg 2 El Paso Eastwood 84 7+9+10+18+40 (59+78) 0:50 1-5 Split | 15:59 Avg 3 The Woodlands 99 8+12+14+29+36 (53+67) 0:38 1-5 Split | 16:04 Avg 4 Atascocita 113 20+21+22+23+27 (41+52) 0:13 1-5 Split | 16:08 Avg
As impressive as Eastwood and Atascocita were, The Woodlands and Carroll were on another level at the 6A state meet.
The Highlanders ran a season's best 15:48 team average for 5,000m this season. Add that with their 45 second split, to prove why they have been listed as one of the MileSplit50 top teams most of the season.
Carroll was able to make it two consecutive state championships by only scoring 65 points. The back-to-back state champs blazed a 15:45 team average around Old Settlers and only had a 15 second split.
They did that by placing their first four scorers in the top 24 individual runners and all under 15:51 with the five runner finishing in 15:54.
Despite how fast and tight The Woodlands, Eastwood, and Atascocita were, Carroll was just a little bit more impressive. Their first four runners all placed just behind other team's second runner the fifth runner was ahead of every team's fourth runner. In fact, Carroll's fifth scorer would have been the top runner of five teams and the second best runner on six other state meet teams.
Next year is bound to be an even faster race. What it will take to win next year's team championship could be even more demanding as Carroll returns it's top six runners from this year's team.
One thing is for certain, the winners will have to run tight and fast and the other podium teams will too.