Both Coppell and Flower Mound qualified its boys and girls teams for the state cross country meet, running well enough to slot into the top four teams in each category at the Region I-6A meet in Lubbock Monday.
Neither pulled off a team victory, however, as perennial power Southlake Carroll swept team gold with performances of 48 points on the girls side and 60 on the boys. In the girls race, Coppell finished as runner-up to the Lady Dragons with 72 points, while Flower Mound took third with 100. For the boys, the Jaguars edged Coppell, taking third with a total of 97 points to finish ahead of the fourth-place Cowboys (121).
“It’s definitely a good feeling to have both teams,” said Nick Benton, Coppell head coach. “Any time you qualify just one, there’s always that bittersweet feeling of, ‘I wish we could have had both.’ The kids have worked hard, and it’s fun to see that pay off.”
Though neither program earned a team championship, Flower Mound senior Jarrett Kirk took the highest spot on the boys individual podium with a time of 14:38.20, narrowly beating Coppell junior and individual runner-up Evan Caswell (14:41.60).
The finish was a confidence boost for Kirk, Flower Mound head coach Andrew Cook said, after the senior fell to Caswell in the District 6-6A race.
“Obviously, your senior year, you want to get that district title, so that was unfortunate,” he said. “But I kind of try to keep him focused on what his goals are for this year, which is to place as high as he can at state. No one’s going to come around a couple of weeks later and say, ‘What happened at district?’ … They’re going to be talking about what you do at state.”
Other state qualifiers from Monday’s meet on the girls side included Marcus sophomore Austin Owen (third place, 17:12.50), Hebron junior Keaton Morrison (16th place, 18:17.60) and Marcus senior Ashlynn Mays (18th place, 18:26.10).
In the boys event, Marcus junior Greyson Gravitt also qualified with a 13th-place performance (15:12.20).
It was those Marauders, Benton said, who gave the Cowboys their biggest challenge for the final qualification spot as a team.
“Evan’s performance is one of the main reasons we’re qualified for the state meet,” Benton said. “Marcus has a very good team, and they’re very well-coached, so we knew that that’s who we were going to have to beat if we wanted to get there.”
Though she qualified for state through the Lady Jaguars’ performance, Flower Mound sophomore Natalie Cook nearly joined Kirk atop the podium, finishing as individual runner-up just ahead of Owen with a time of 17:00.30.
Coppell also got top-10 performances from senior Shelby Spoor (seventh, 17:53.50) and junior Natalie Fleming (10th, 18:10.20). Fellow junior Chloe Hassman finished almost dead even with Fleming but landed just outside the top 10 in 11th with a time of 18:10.30, exemplifying the pack mentality that handed the program a girls state title a season ago.
Those who qualified for state will hit Old Settlers Park in Round Rock later this week, as the state meet is set for Saturday. The 6A girls will get underway at 2:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 3:10 p.m.
After getting an individual champion on the boys side a year ago in alum Alex Maier, Cook said he knows both his daughter and Kirk could threaten to bring home more individual hardware.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away and keep doing the best we can and focus on having good workouts leading up to (state),” he said. “I think, for both of them – even though Natalie was second (at regionals), it was by three seconds. … I think those were big confidence-boosters. Hopefully, they’ll use that and get up in the front of the race and do the best they can to give themselves a chance to win.”
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