This week marks the beginning of the high school cross country postseason and runners from 6-6A will descend on Denton’s North Lakes Park on Friday for their annual district meet.
Last season, this race was the first hurdle cleared by the Flower Mound girls en route to capturing a UIL Class 6A state championship, and the Lady Jaguars should be in the mix once again. Meanwhile, Coppell outlasted a competitive field on the boys side, winning the district title in a race where a mere six points separated the top three teams in the final standings.
There’s no shortage of standout runners in 6-6A between Lewisville ISD, Plano ISD and Coppell, but here are a few worth keeping an eye as the cross country postseason gets underway.
Plano West, Sr.
The lone representative for Plano ISD at last year’s Class 6A state meet, Heikkinen is leading the charge for West’s state-ranked program – seventh in the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas 6A state poll.
In fact, Heikkinen’s time of 14:59.4 that posted at the MileSplit TX Invitational ranks him as the second-fastest runner in 6A, according to Athletic.net – trailing only a 14:44.8 that Kevin Sanchez of Austin Vandergrift ran Sept. 4.
He is the only male runner in 6A to have completed a race in less than 15 minutes. Heikkinen has won three races this season and the only time that he didn’t was when she earned at the MileSplit TX Invitational.
One of the breakout performers across the state as a sophomore, Mullen has taken his running abilities to the next level this season as the No. 1 runner on a Coppell team that finished in fifth place in last year’s state meet.
He takes the second-fastest time by a male runner in the district into the conference meet, set for 8 a.m. Oct. 15 at North Lakes Park in Denton. Mullen has two wins to his credit, capturing first place in both the Waxahachie Woodhouse Invitational on Aug. 21 and the Coppell Invitational on Sept. 11.
At the Jesuit Cross Country Classic, Mullen placed fourth overall in a time of 15:35.5.
Ramirez has made quite the splash for the Marauders. In the first meet of the season for Marcus, Ramirez won the two-mile Hebron Friday Night Hawk Invitational in a time of 10:08.9.
And for as well as he started the season for Ramirez, he is building momentum towards the postseason with the district meet fast approaching.
Ramirez took third at both the Flower Mound Invitational on Sept. 25 and the Nike South Invitational on Oct. 2, where he completed the 2.88-mile course in a time of 14:36.2.
Flower Mound, Soph.
The Lady Jaguars, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas, are primed for a run at a second consecutive state championship. Humphries is one of four returners from Flower Mound’s lineup at state last season and has set one personal record after another during her sophomore season.
Humphries sports the fastest 5K time in 6-6A, according to Athletic.net, when she ran an 18:07.2 as part of a third-place finish at the Marcus Coach T Invitational on Sept. 4. Elsewhere, Humphries has posted a two-mile time of 11:06.2 on Aug. 21 at the Carroll 3,200 and a three-mile time of 17:06.8 on Sept. 18 at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic — all PRs.
Humphries figures to be in the mix for the 6-6A title on Friday in Denton, joined by a veteran group that includes sophomore Samantha Humphries and seniors Natalie Cook, Allison Buemi and Virginia Knight.
If there’s a team in 6-6A capable of unseating the Lady Jaguars for the district championship, it may very well be Hebron. The Lady Hawks took second at the district meet last season after finishing 19 points behind Flower Mound and sport three of the six fastest 5K times in the district this season, according to Athletic.net.
Leading that charge is Kirby, a two-time regional qualifier who has stepped up following the graduation of current Alabama freshman Keaton Morrison. Kirby has the No. 2 5K time in 6-6A at 18:22.8, which she ran on Aug. 28 at the Southlake Carroll XC Invitational.
That mark is six seconds faster than the time submitted by Kirby at last season’s district meet, when she ran an 18:28.4 to finish fourth overall and qualify for regionals.
In addition to Kirby, Hebron has received strong 2021 campaigns from senior Hannah Lewis, junior Lily Dunn and sophomore Bryn Daugherty in its pursuit of another top-two team finish.
Plano East, Sr.
Perhaps the breakout star of the district, Tillery has caught fire during her senior season. The Lady Panther is coming off a personal-record time of 18:49.0 on Oct. 2 at the Jesuit XC Classic. Not only was that mark 76 seconds better than her previous PR, Tillery’s time ranks as the No. 2 5K clip in program history — trailing only East alum Martha Brown’s record time of 18:22.29 in 2016.
Enjoying a third-place finish at the Lovejoy XC Fall Festival on Sept. 4, as well as a fifth-place finish at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Sept. 18, Tillery’s PR in the 5K ranks fourth in the district.
Only Tillery and Plano junior Gracie Ladner (19:06.0) have times among Plano ISD runners that rank in the top 25 of 6-6A heading into Friday’s district meet.