Photo of Taylor Grona at the 2023 UIL 4A State Track Meet
The 2023 cross country season is
upon us and a majority of local teams will be in action this weekend. There are
at least five local meets that will be contested. This past weekend Pieper
hosted a practice meet that was contested as a relay race around 1.5-mile loop.
Top Returning Boys
Earlier this week, the top returning boys in the State were at Top Returning Track 3200m Boys and Their 2022 Fall 5Ks (milesplit.com) based on their two-mile times in track with their top 5K times listed as well. It is always hard to compare cross country times because no two courses are the same. There are many San Antonio Metro athletes on the list, but I wanted to mention some of the names to be watching this year.
Senior Boys Watchlist - Noah Fernandez, Central Catholic; Arlo Gonzales, LEE; Henok Hagos, Jefferson; Farrin Mangelson, SA Patriots; Franco Parra, TMI; Marcelo Parra, TMI; Hayden Scott, Brandeis; Ethan Stutts, New Braunfels; Bradyn Youngdahl, Smithson Valley; Anthony Zapata, SW Legacy. I highlighted many of these runners during the track season, but Fernandez and Mangelson are two runners I did not get to see much and am looking forward to watching. Fernandez finished 6th at the TAPPS State meet while Mangelson was 2nd among Texas Home Schoolers. If I had to choose a top runner it would likely be Marcelo Parra with his brother, Franco, plus Scott and Hagos pushing him.
Junior Boys Watchlist - Luke Adams, Holmes; Eli Bliss, Davenport; Gavin Chapa, Reagan; Caleb Dehart, Boerne Champion; Eli Guerra, Davenport; Zachary Miller, Brennan; Christian Pena, Davenport; Greydn Richards, Harlan; Luis Tovar, Boerne Champion; Noah Velasquez, New Braunfels. There are a couple of interesting things in this group. The first thing is that Davenport appears ready to have an outstanding season with three top juniors. The second is that Richards has only run cross country in his first two seasons and dropped a fantastic time at the Medina Valley Panther Invitational, but probably has the most to prove of any on this list. Chapa, Pena and Tovar are my choices to fight it out for the top spot among the junior class.
Sophomore Boys Watchlist - Caden Alvarado, Alamo Heights; Carsten Bain, Boerne; Titus Gill, SA Spartans; Timothy Lawson, Clemens; Christian Lopez, New Braunfels; Jonavon Lott, Antonian; Zebene Martine, Smithson Valley; Tristan Schenk, Canyon Lake; Joshua Sharp, Alamo Heights; Jayden Warner, Johnson. There are no superstars in this group yet, but that can all change with one good off-season. I would lean toward Alvarado and Warner as the best of the bunch.
Top Returning Girls
Senior Girls Watchlist - Avery Brawner, Alamo Heights; Brooklyn Crow, Taft; Lola Daffin, New Braunfels; Loghan Gonzales, SA Patriots; Taylor Grona, Fredericksburg; Destiny Hernandez, East Central; Hannah Hood, Tivy; Cadence Patterson, Canyon Lake; Ashley Stratton, Harlan; Emma Vallejo, Incarnate Word. The small schools boast some of the top seniors this year with Grona and Patterson at the top of the class. Grona was the 4A State Runner-Up last year. Vallejo is another to keep tabs on after a fourth-place finish in TAPPS last year.
Junior Girls Watchlist - Kynley Albright, Boerne Champion; Sophia Bendet, Randolph; Jadyn Cook, Steele; Alicia Galvez, SW Legacy; Claire Herzog, LEE; Addison Jackson, Reagan; Caila Lyons, Brennan; Jadeyn Perez, Clark; Mia Perez, Smithson Valley; Micaela Villarreal, Antonian. The junior class is loaded with top talent, many of whom already have State titles to their names. Villarreal is likely the top 5K runner in the group but Albright, Bendet, Lyons and Mia Perez could all challenge her.
Sophomore Girls Watchlist - Kendall Fallon, Boerne Champion; Madeline Farr, Brennan; Ainslee Gilbreath, Tivy; Rilyn Grona, Fredericksburg; Danel Hernandez, Brennan; Jenna Koepke, Boerne Champion; Kassia Kozarski, Steele; Sadie Larson, Pieper; Beth Leachman, Boerne Champion; Aidan Unsworth, Canyon. Leachman is one of the best distance runners in the nation and continued to improve by leaps and bounds during the track season. Fallon finished in the top-35 in the State and was a State qualifier in the 300 hurdles last year. With Farr and Hernandez, Brennan appears to be in line to be one of the top 6A teams in the city.
What's Happening This Week
The season starts on Thursday with the Incarnate Word Invitational at McAllister Park. Madison, Lanier, Brackenridge, BASIS, Cornerstone, Great Hearts Northern Oaks, Randolph and Veterans Memorial are all scheduled to be there. Kerrville Tivy hosts a meet on Friday and then on Saturday North East ISD, Steele and Floresville all host meets. The Floresville meet will have a large school race and a small school race that figures to have over 25 schools in attendance.