Last week provided the Gonzales cross-country coaching staff a glimpse of what could be as the Lady Apaches ended their race in second place, behind defending state champion Bandera.
On Sept. 22, head coach Cully Doyle took 11 girls and two boys to Corpus Christi to take on the pre-regional meet, an important race to gauge exactly where his team was at. At the end of the day, the girls reaffirmed Doyle’s state aspirations.
“Forty-five schools were there, in our division, there were more schools there, but in our division there were 45 schools and 303 official individual runners,” he said. “And we took care of business. I’m so proud of the girls. We finished second behind Bandera, and they deserve credit, they’re a four-time defending state champions for a reason.”
Crossing the finish line first for Gonzales Veronica Moreno, who finished with a time of 11:53.33, good for 10th place. Right behind her were freshmen Krisanta Esquivel and Kaylin Ramirez.
“Veronica Moreno deserves a heck of a lot of credit,” Doyle said. “She took care of business, ran out the gate hard.”
Meanwhile, the two freshmen were what Doyle “needed to see,” he said.
“I knew my returners, I knew,” he added, “I know what I’m going to get out of them on a quality day. So that was really huge for [the freshmen].”
Krystalynn Buesing finished fourth for the Lady Apaches while Stephanie Reyna was the fifth runner.
“We’re expecting big things out of [Buesing],” Doyle said. “Don’t expect anything less.”
“We all know how Stephanie can run,” Doyle then added, “she’s a great runner. I expect her even to continue to get better. She ran exceptionally well.”
Coming in sixth was the lone senior, Maura Garcia, who Doyle said was fun to see her compete. Then at seven was Shelby Davis.
Although those seven were the top seven of the race, Doyle pointed out that the depth behind those racers is what’s pushing everyone to greater heights.
“One thing that I think is really huge for us is that we are so deep,” he said. “It’s not a ‘hey I made the team.’ You have to earn it. And I hold honesty to a high standard and high characters and I love our seniors and I love our freshmen and sophomores and juniors, but our girls understand that you have to do this to earn this. Notice I didn’t say give. Our kids have learned to understand that.”
“Jordan Williams deserves a lot of credit for pushing the envelope,” Doyle said. “Emily Moore deserves a heck of a lot of credit. Genevieve Kelly deserves a lot of credit for pushing and Brooklyn Simper. Those girls are pushing our girls.”
Moore finished eighth of the team, Kelly ninth, Williams 10th and Simper 11th.
Emily Moreno couldn’t travel, though Doyle pointed out that she is a part of that top 12 group. Moreno instead went to the Altair Rice Consolidated meet last Thursday, where she had much success.
“She went and took care of business,” Doyle said.
The second place finish by the Lady Apaches was the first time Doyle and the coaching staff got to see almost all of their top runners race together at the same time instead of being separated due to the race being a relay or other reasons. Their success at the pre-regional meet reassured the team that they are indeed on the right path to state.
“It’s the only meet that we take an extra emphasis on before district,” Doyle said. “That’s just my philosophy. We run different races, different styles, different ways all year round. I’ll have some girls on JV, I’ll have some girls on one meet and not another meet. I’ll give some girls a weekend off at times.
“I believe this time of year is when the races become important,” he continued. “The girls have bought into that philosophy. With that said being on the podium at Corpus Christi at the pre-regional meet is big time reassurance. I don’t know what’s going to happen four weeks from now, but we’ll be at the same place with the same opportunities to be on the podium.”
On the boys side, Doyle brought Antonio Hernandez and Avery Almaguer to Corpus Christi. The depth isn’t there yet for that team, but Doyle praised the racers, saying they were “hands down” better than last year’s team.
“We ended up traveling the majority of the boys to Rice Consolidated on Thursday,” Doyle explained. “I actually ran everybody on JV on purpose because it was a two-mile race and I wanted them to run fast. They won it, they won the meet pretty easy.”
The boys team have a tough task come district.
“I think we have a chance to get out,” Doyle said. “We got to be in the top three in district. Our district is tough, we know that, I mean it’s not hiding anything from anybody, our district is tough. But at the same time, I think they can get out if the cards fall right. But Antonio Hernandez and Avery Almaguer are the two that have stepped their game up quite a bit compared to the rest of them.”
Doyle also praised Avrum Almaguer, Mark Burek, Carlos Mendoza and Daniel Garcia as runners who have improved over the season.
“We’re excited for them,” he said. “The future is bright. [They] just got to get better.”
The District 30-4A meet is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Starke Park in Seguin at 9 a.m.