Girls compete at the 2023 SPC Conference XC Championships
Written by Jason Yaffe - -
BENBROOK - The 2023 Southwest Preparatory Championships (SPC) at the Athletic Performance Ranch were highlighted by double wins by St. Stephen's Episcopal (Austin) in the 3A division and Episcopal High School (Houston) in the 4a division.
The first race of the day set the tone for other tactical ones to come. The 3A girls race played out as many expected it would, with St. Stephen's and Houston Duchesne battling for the team title. A group of four runners came through the first mile together in muddy conditions at the Athletic Performance Ranch. Duschene's Keeley Klenke ended up gradually pulling away from Fort Worth Country Day's Chloe Nelson to win by 8 seconds in 19:59.7. Coach Greg Cook and Coach Katie Gwyn placed two Spartans in the top 8 to help St. Stephen's win their first team title of the day.
The Episcopal Knights used a one-two punch to claim their third straight title in the 4A girls race. It was the first triple repeat on the girls side since Houston Kinkaid won SPC titles from 2005-07 (the St. Andrew's boys won five SPC titles in a row from 2008 through 2012). Episcopal head coach Julius Michael commented how his girls were "prepared and they wanted it." Furthermore, "they came together as a team at the right time."
That was indeed the case as Madison Morgan and Olivia Kiefer closed the gap on early race leader Margaret Thompson of Hockaday to claim the first two spots. Thompson paced her Daisies to a runner up finish that came down to a tie with Kinkaid. However, Hockaday's sixth girl (Victoria Zavala, who started the season on the JV team) had a breakthrough race to finish an important five spots ahead of Kinkaid's sixth, giving the Daisies the edge. Coach LaBoris Bean from Hockaday said he was "super excited with second after last year's SPC race."
The St. Stephen's boys matched their female teammates in the Boys 3A race. Coach Cook commented how "many of the boys exceeded their seed placement." The Spartans placed three boys in the top 6, led by runner up Graham Boles. The boys individual race opened with a pack of five runners coming through the mile before Awty International School's Edgar Thielens went to work. Over the next mile the pack would dwindle until it was all Thielens. Thielens ended up crossing the line in 17:03, some 12 seconds ahead of Boles.
The last race of the day, the boys 4A competition, did not disappoint. Close to ten boys came through the mile mark before the pack separated. With 1k to go, Episcopal's Evan Ringwald and Sam Marino were running side by side, with St. Andrew's Luke Dial and John Cooper's Aditya Pakal in pursuit. Ringwald and Marino pulled away moments later to cross the line side by side with Ringwald getting the individual win over his teammate, 16:22.0 to 16:22.6.
The team competition was just as close with three teams scoring within four points of each other. Episcopal edged out St. John's School (Houston) 62-64, with John Cooper an ever so close third with 66 points.
St. John's had an impressive six runners in the top 21, but could not match Episcopal's one-two combo. For Coach Michael's Knights, it marked quite a turnaround since they last competed at the Athletic Performance Ranch site.
Back in 2017, in Michael's first year as a head coach, the Knights finished 12th out of 15 schools in the boys SPC meet.
Today they won it all.