Cross country underclassmen lead the way

Junior Nicholas Matthews, a varsity runner, maintains a fast pace in the IWA meet on Aug. 20. Matthews finished sixth with a time of 10:59. Photo by Nico Hoge.

by Joe Fisher
Eagle Editorial Board

Last year the Eagle cross country team came up short at state, placing second overall. The seniors were the core of the varsity with John Cantu leading the way.

Coming into the 2011 season, those seniors have graduated, and the varsity squad will turn to its underclassmen runners to lead STH to a state title.

Of the seven-person varsity squad, five of the runners are underclassmen this year, three juniors and two sophomores.

The young varsity squad will have to make up ground in areas that last year’s team was strong in, such as experience and leadership. Many of the new varsity runners have little to no experience with competing in varsity races. This could be a factor when its time for district and state meets.

“Yes it will [be a factor], because experienced runners know how to run the race strategically,” junior runner Adrian Alba said.

With a heavy underclassmen team, there will also be a need for leadership considering Troy Harrington is the only returning senior letterman. The juniors will have to take the reins for this team.

“Leadership will come from juniors Nicholas Matthews, Adrian Alba and me, but also senior Troy Harrington,” junior runner Jo Alan Castilleja said.

Placing second at state was a disappointment for the team last year, especially after winning district with such a strong varsity. The 2011 Eagles will now look to get back to state and win their first state title in seven years, even with a young varsity.

“Our guys have been working hard, and it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Castilleja said. “If you have talent and you work hard, then it doesn’t matter.”

Cross country coach Nathan Labus thinks the varsity squad is up for the challenge.

“I think the team has great potential,” Labus said.

The cross country team’s season is already underway, as the varsity placed second at the IWA meet, a 3200 meter race, on Aug. 20. Alba was the Eagles’ top runner at the meet placing fifth overall with a time of 10:56. Matthews finished sixth with a time of 10:59, Castilleja finished ninth with a time of 11:06 and the only returning senior, Harrington, finished 22nd with a time of 11:31.

The JV team placed second overall too. The top finishers for the JV were freshman runner Jason Nania finishing fifth with a time of 12:14, sophomore runner Sam Thurston finishing seventh with a time of 12:25 and freshman runner Joshua Shawn finishing ninth with a time of 12:31.

The next meet they competed in was the UH Cougar Classic on August 27. The Eagles as a team placed eighth out of 32 teams. Harrington was the top runner for the seniors, Castilleja for the juniors, Mario Rodriguez for the sophomores, and Nania for the freshmen.

The cross country team will be competing this weekend with the varsity and JV squads running in the Friday Night Lights meet in the Woodlands.