A year ago, Andruw Villa was just happy to compete in the State Class 6A cross country competition as a rookie from Abilene High School. Now a little wiser and a lot faster, he’s aiming high enough for Saturday’s race at Old Settlers Park in Round Round.
“I hope to get the top five, and I hope to win too,” Villa said.
Villa proved he can race with the best in the state after a second place finish in the Region I-6A meet on October 25 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.
Plano West senior Hudson Heikkinen won the 5-kilometer race in 15 minutes, 25.3 seconds. Villa followed in 15: 26.1 – 19 seconds ahead of the third.
Not bad for a guy who finished 17th in the region last year in 16: 32.10.
“Yes, it gave me a lot of confidence for this year,” Villa said.
It has been a remarkable year for Villa. He won the District 2-6A meet by 30 seconds over defending league champion Chavez Christian of Odessa Permian.
Now he has a chance to redeem himself after finishing 119th out of 120 runners in the state last year. Villa, who ran a time of 19: 32.04 at State last year in his worst outing of the season, said he didn’t eat properly before the race and had a stomach ache .
It was a difficult lesson to learn on the state’s biggest stage – along with other things.
“The pace is important and the hydration is important,” Villa said. “I think that was also a factor in my stomach.”
He said it was important for him to stick to his usual pre-race routine and stretch more.
“I was a little tight this race too.”
Still, it was a pretty exciting day for Villa, who gained the experience to build on for this year and, perhaps, two more trips after this year.
“Yeah, I was pretty happy to be there,” Villa said. “I knew that even if I had a really good pr I would lose, but I was excited to be in the state as a freshman.”
A personal best would put Villa in contention this time around. Dallas Wylie senior Luke Lambert won the state title last year with a time of 15: 03.45, followed by Duncanville senior Martin David Chavez (15: 17.28) and El Paso Eastlake junior David Israel (15: 25.54).
Villa won’t be the only AHS athlete competing in the state’s cross country competition.
The Murray sisters – Mason and Marin – will make their first appearance.
And why not? They have run 1-2 at most games this season, including the District 2-6A game.
While Mason has been phenomenal this season in first year, she is grateful that Marin, in second year, is making the trip with her.
“I’m super excited, because we’re doing it together,” Mason said. “So I have a hand to hold through this. “
Well, at least until they get to the start line. The sisters will be sisters.
Mason does not intend to run alongside Marin.
“Oh, probably not,” Mason said. “I still want to beat her.”
Mason won the district in 19: 06.48, followed by Marin (19: 33.62), but they both knew it would be difficult to qualify for the state.
After all, they run in an area that has some of the best runners in the state.
They still managed to cling to the elites. Mason finished 14th (19: 16.6), while Marin took the last place off (21st, 19: 32.1).
Lewisville Flower Mound senior Natalie Cook (16: 39.9) won the race, while Eastlake senior Lauren Walls (18: 05.1) and Prosper junior Shewaye Johnson (18: 09.9) finished second and third respectively.
Flower Mound and Carroll finished 1-2 in the region’s tag team standings this year, after finishing 1-2 at the state last year. El Paso Franklin, another Region I team, finished fourth in the state last year.
So, Mason was caught off guard when she managed to stay close to the front and gain this place of state.
“I wasn’t shocked but I was a little surprised because the last time I raced against these teams I was 40th,” said Mason. “So when I got to 14th I didn’t think I would be that low. It was quite fun.
What made the moment even better was the fact that she didn’t think a little freshman could do so well.
“I was just super relieved and excited, because I had doubted myself all last week,” Mason said. “Just for that to happen, it was just a huge relief and I was super excited because, regional is do or die. Either you do it or your season is over. I still have more of the season.
It was also a good time for Marin. She finished 56th in the region last year (20: 52.80) to lead the AHS Girls. This time around, she had a faster teammate to follow.
“To be honest, I was a little surprised that I did it,” Marin said. “The regional ones have been the closest I’ve raced with her all season. So that was also surprising.
As this is the first official appearance for the two sisters, they plan to take advantage of the moment and use it to continue.
“I’m obviously not going to go out and do anything really amazing or anything,” Mason said. “I’m trying to take it as a learning experience because I’ll have the next three years to build on it. “
Marin added: “My goal (in the area) was to run as hard as I could because it could be the last race of the season. I didn’t want to end my season knowing that I could have given more. This is also the plan for Saturday.
AHS Girls’ Coach RoseMary Martin was proud of her two daughters.
“They have worked very hard throughout the season, and I am delighted with this experience that they can have together and then build on it for the future,” said Martin.
Denton Guyer senior Brynn Brown won the state last year (16: 25.89). It took a race of less than 6:00 p.m. to finish in the top five. Cook, who won the Region I title this year, was seventh at State (18: 05.94) last year.
“Our goal is to stay in the first half,” said Martin. “With the 160, 170 riders who will be there, if we can finish in the top 40 or 50, that would be roughly where their times would be.”
And despite their sibling rivalry, Marin is thrilled to be making the trip with his little sister.
“It’s going to be exciting to go together because it’s a first experience for all of us,” said Marin.
Joey D. Richards covers Abilene High Schools and Colleges, Big Country Schools, and other local sports. Follow him on Twitter at ARN_Joey. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
UIL 2021 Cross Country Meet
At Old Settlers Park, Round Rock
Class 1A girls, 8:30 a.m.
Class 1A boys 9h
Class 3A girls, 10 a.m.
Class 3A boys 10:30 am
Girls class 5A, 11:30 a.m.
Class 5A boys, 12:10 p.m.
The Saturday program
Girls class 2A, 8:30 a.m.
Class 2A boys, 9 a.m.
Girls class 4A, 10h
Class 4A boys 10:30 am
Class 6A girls, 11:30 a.m.
Class 6A boys, 12:10 p.m.