by Nicholas Williams
After having a successful regular season set of meets, the Eagle cross country runners are looking towards one thing: a state title.
While receiving only a fraction of the accolades the other fall sports team has, the cross country team is enjoying a very strong season, being led largely by experienced seniors.
The Eagles have won three out of their five meets, and only finished behind private schools in one event.
The squad entered Wednesday’s TAPPS District 3-5A meet as heavy favorites to defend their district title.
The times the team posted in competition this year are consistently faster than those the St. Pius X, Beaumont Kelly and Tomball Concordia Lutheran runners.
While no Eagle runner has individually won a race, the team’s greatest strength is its depth. Thus, the recipe for success for the team is to have multiple runners in the top ten — something that has happened twice this year.
Four-year letterman Alan Castilleja finished first among St. Thomas runners in four out of the team’s five meets.
Castijella is one of the strongest runner of the team, but there are other key contributors.
Senior Nicholas Matthews was the team’s MVP in 2011 and has remained consistent in his high school final season.
He has finished second out of the Eagle runners in three of four events he has competed in. The lone meet he missed was the team’s worst of the year.
“That meet was really just a bad one for all of us,” Castilleja said. “We prefer not to talk about it because we know it’s not representative of what we’re capable of.”
They have bounced back in the two ensuing meets, in large part due to junior Peter Hawkins.
While the junior struggled to start the season, he has steadily improved his times and posted the best final time of anyone on the team at the Stephen F. Austin Invitational.
“I could have trained harder over the summer,” Hawkins said. “But I’ve become more determined to catch up with the other runners and as the weather gets cooler I’ve found it easier to run.”
Given their success this season, the team is naturally looking forward to the upcoming district and state meets.
The Eagles are one of the frontrunners for the TAPPS state championship.
“We are probably the favorites for [the 3-5A] district [championship] right now,” Matthews said. “But on the state level we are around second. San Antonio Antonian is looking very good.”
The only district rival they have faced so far is St. Pius X, who was well behind the Eagle runners at the finish of the IWA Invitational.
The Eagles are looking to win a state championship — something they have not done since 2004. They are yearning for another and this team has the potential.
The Eagles know they will all have to perform their best to have a chance.
As they near the end of one of their best seasons in years, the Eagles are looking to trying their luck.
“We are looking forward to competing for the state title. But it all starts with district and we have to make sure not to overlook that,” said Matthews of the team’s postseason prospects. “We understand it will not come easy.”