Underclass Girls And Boys Who Had Big Impacts At Districts

Katy Tompkins sophomore Mathias Pitzel (2411) finished third at his district meet and under 16:00

Photo Credit: Roderick Pernetter/MileSplit TX

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The 2022 UIL cross country championship season is nowe one round into things. With the district round down and another qualifying round to go, we expect the rest of the season to be heavily impacted by upperclassmen. However, the state is full of talent in the underclass grades as well.

From what we saw this weekend, the freshman class has clearly settled in throughout the course of the season and the sophomore class proved that they have also matured with the most of another season under their belts.

We have identified just a couple of impressive underclass girls and boys who made some noise throughout the state in the UIL District Championship week.

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Rilyn Grona (Fredericksburg) is just a freshman, but she finds herself right in the middle of the 4A team battle. She ran 11:34 at the UIL 4A District 27 championships to finish runner-up. The No. 2 runner will be counted on to help them to press for the podium in Corpus Christi and in Round Rock.

Wink has a freshman connection with their No. 1 UIL 2A District 6 finisher Delaney Dodd-Fernandes and third place finisher Marlene Chavira. Fernandes ran 11:54 and Chavira ran 12:02 to help Wink win district.

While we're taking a look at 2A and 4A, we can't overlook the 3A freshman girls. Brooklyn Albert (Poth), Cara Sims (Elysian Fields), Braleigh Wood (Quitman), and Brynleigh McFarlin (Keene) won their district races and look to be major players at the regional level. Albert ran 12:02, Sims 12:14, Wood 12:15, and McFarlin went 12:16.

It isn't surprising that Macy Wingard (Denton Braswell) won her district race. She has been clicking since mid August and her 12:21 at the UIL 6A district 5 is what is becoming expected. The sentiment and expectations is echoed for Rowan Saacke (Katy Tompkins); her district win isn't surprising either and she has the chance for a regional title as well.

Itzel Rodriguez (Brownsville Veterans Memorial) and Elizabeth Leachman (Boerne Champion) were both runner-ups at their district and could be key runners in Region 4. Tibbie Mustacchia (Austin Vandegrift) Clara Dye (Kingwood), Madeline Heckler (Dallas Highland Park) and Josie Osbourne (Colleyville Heritage) were all fourth place finishers in their districts and figure to have big time effects in team outcomes at their region meets.


La Feria is having a great season on the boys side thanks to their trio of Anthony Morales, Armando Morales, and Nathan Salinas. The three teamed up with their upper class teammates to combine for a perfect score at district. Anthony and Armando went 1-2 with Salinas finishing in fourth place.

Noah Strohman (Holliday) won the 7-3A district in 15:30. His brother and fellow freshman Ryder Strohman was the runner-up in 16:39. 

Not only were the Strohman brothers important in the Holliday team outcome and advancing to regionals, but so were Cole Morrison, Tanner Simmons, Tyler Harrison, and Kelson Wales. The group of freshmen teamed up with junior Cole Esparza to move onto the next round.

Jonah Grein (Richardson) has been one of the top freshmen in the state all year long. He dropped a 15:53 to finish runner-up at UIL 6A District 7. Although it's only by a very slim margin, his 15:53 is a PR. With regionals fastly approaching, he could be in good shape to grab a state meet individual qualifying spot.

Kai McCullough (Austin Vandegrift) didn't finish as high as some of the others, but he is key to CCCAT Coaches Poll No. 4 ranked Vandegrift's state meet podium push. He finished eighth overall along with an impressive 16:01 in his first championship season race, but it's likely he'll continue to run big at regional and possibly the state meet if it's in his cards.

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Smithson Valley sophomore Mia Perez won UIL 5A District 26 with a time of 18:31

Photo Credit: Stuart Kantor/MileSplit TX

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The sophomore girls class is one that has a major impact on the regional and state level. Mia Perez (Smithson Valley), Sophia Nguyen (George Ranch) and Staucie Lees (Conroe Grand Oaks) all won their district championships and could make an impact at the next round. All three girls are having strong individual seasons; Perez won the UIL 5A District 26 in 18:31, Nguyen won the UIL 6A District 20 in 18:45 and Lees won the UIL 6A District 13 in 18:46.

Also getting a district win was Mason Murray from Abilene as she beat last year's individual state meet qualifier Zanashia Harris, a fellow sophomore from Lubbock Coronado who was the district runner-up.

Not notching district wins, but still looking impactful was Emma Wade (Vista Ridge), Hailey Castillo (Clear Falls), and Leilani Preciado (Austin Vandegrift). 

Wade was third at her district meet, but her 18:42 looks good heading into the regionals. Hailey Castillo (Clear Falls) finished runner up at the UIL 6A District 24 championships with a time of 18:52 and will look to help CCCAT Coaches Poll No. 10 ranked Clear Falls advance to state.

Sophomore teammates Sophia Bendet and Aubrey Milam of Randolph finished first and second at the UIL 3A District 26 championships. Bendet's winning time of 11:48 and Milam's 12:04 put them squarely in the heat of things for their upcoming regional meet.

Vania Martinez (Gatesville) won her second straight district title. She was fourth last year at the Region 1-4A Championships and this year, it figures to be a doozy of a race and Martinez appears up for it with her 12:03 win.


Gavin Chapa (San Antonio Reagan) ran a solid time at the District 28-6A. His 15:39 was good enough for third place behind a couple of San Antonio's best distance runners. Chapa should be a major runner at Region 4 and possibly at the state meet as should his teammates who qualified as a team for regionals.

Lovejoy sophomore teammates William Carlson and Caden Gary are big factors into the team's No. 1 ranking in the latest CCCAT coaches poll. They also helped the team win the 13-5A district title and look like heavy favorites for the regional win. Carlson finished with a 15:49 for the win and Gary was second in 15:57.

Graford sophomore Landon Cobb won the 21-1A district with his 16:11. That's over a minute PR and a good sign for Cobb to make a return trip to regionals. 

Aleksandr Acuna (Denton Braswell) has been outstanding since his first meet back in August. He ran 15:09 to win UIL 6A District 5 and looks to be continuing his hot streak into regionals. 

Not winning their district meets, but having major influences were Dax Ritchie and Britain Chancellor (Frisco Wakeland) as they finished second and third at the UIL 5A District 9 meet. Mathias Pitzel (Katy Tompkins), Matthew Kasenic (Prosper Rock Hill), Joaquin De La Cruz (McKinney Boyd) and Marcus Flores (Pflugerville) make 10 total sophomores who ran 16:00 and under throughout the week. These guys could qualify individually for the state meet.