The Flower Mound girls get off the starting line at the 2023 UIL 6A state meet
There are several teams coming in with good footprints from their leagues, levels, and state from this season. There are many sub 19-minute average teams coming together to battle it out at Bear Branch Park.
Teams like Texas SPC champs Houston Episcopal, UIL 6A third place The Woodlands, El Paso Franklin, and Oklahoma 6A third place Piedmont who have all had good years should have good team runs at NXR South.
However things are on another level for NXR South.
That next level consists of teams like Oklahoma 6A champs Owasso (OK). The girls ran a 18:50 team average at OSSAA state meet with a 2:20 split.
Also on that level is Bentonville (AR) who has the ability to run a 18:36 team average and went 18:56 at the state meet. They ran a 1:44 deviation from one to five.
It was the Rogers (AR) girls who took advantage at the Arkansas 6A state meet. They didn't run as fast as Bentonville, but they ran tighter. Their 51 second split was a better overall team performance than Bentonville's awarding them the team title.
However, at this time of year, all of the feel goods and possibilities are just about all out of the window. To compete against the favorites will mean a team will have the race of theire lives.
There are three teams in the South Region who are legit and as bout as consistent as they come. Any chance of two of the three teams having an off day are slim to none.
Last year, it was a close three team battle between Carroll, Lovejoy, and Flower Mound. All three were awarded opportunities to race at NXN and they've been the leaders all year long in the South.
Lovejoy won their third Texas UIL 5A state title and have the second best team average in the state behind Flower Mound with their 17:56 average and 52 second split.
The Leopards are undefeated this season taking wins at Southlake over Carroll to begin the year, at Lovejoy over Bentonville, and at Chile Pepper as well.
They've run tough courses, slow courses, and they've run on fast courses. Their last run was to the tune of a 18:21 average and 1:01 split at the state meet.
Southlake Carroll was second to Lovejoy in their season opener, losing by three points. They would regroup and turn in a good team performance at Woodbridge. That followed a win at Nike South over Flower Mound and the backed that up with a win over Flower Mound again at the Region 1-6A Championships by 28 points.
What Carroll is good at is being consistent and at improvement.
They ran a 18:31 team average at Nike South with a 43 second split. They then ran 18:33 at regionals, but fell off with a 1:11 split. That led to a loss to Flower Mound at state for second place by running their fastest race of the year with a 18:18 average and a 53 second split.
Flower Mound's most important characteristic is perhaps their patience.
They were hit with an early season blow when they realized they'd run without Nicole Humphries. She is last year's UIL 6A state champion and was a Nike and Champs Nationals qualifier.
However, what was thought to be a season ending injury ended up being an incorrect diagnosis of time off. Humphries was able to put weight on her leg days before the state meet and she ran with the team, helping propel to a fourth straight state title.
As Humphries sat out, the rest of the team performed and continued to get better.
They opened the season with a 18:40 average in their first race and a 2:35 split. Then they ran 18:19 and 2:08, followed by a 18:08 and 2:14 split.
It was at the regional meet that was their worst statistical run of the year with a 18:42 average and a 2:09 split. Then came the insertion of Humphries and that made the difference.
Although she wasn't the usual seventeen-minute mid or better runner we're used to seeing, she was still impactful by running a 18:12 and the number four runner in the race.
That led to a season bests of 17:52 team average and a 1:08 split. That'll again make the Jags a tough out.