Courtesy Photo/Michelle White
The Lady Bulldogs accept the State Championship trophy yet again. Pictured are (top row, from left) coach Kenneth Henderson, Cara Henson, Chanda Westbrook, Molly McAtee, Head Coach Josh Sypert, (front row, from left) alternate rummer Alyssa Shaddox, Harley Kile, Skye Burns, Shelby White, Chloe Moore and alternate runner Breanna Ragan.
Boys team claims third place for third consecutive year
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor
ROUND ROCK–There’s no time for losing, because they are the champions.
The Eustace girls cross country team proved they are the best 3A team in Texas yet again, outpacing their competition at Round Rock Nov. 8 on their way to claiming the Championship for the second consecutive season.
The Lady Bulldogs ran their best when it mattered most. Just last week the EHS girls failed to win the Regional Meet and finished second to a very good East Bernard team. At the State Meet, Eustace brought everything it had, blowing away the field by 21 points. Their rivals, East Bernard, finished second.
At Regionals EHS did not run their best, says Head Coach Josh Sypert. Social media postings suggested sick players with flu-like symptoms contributed to second place finish. Sypert had a different analysis.
“Bottom line is we didn’t execute,” he said. “We did have a sick runner, but champions don’t make excuses. You can’t expect to be the best if you make excuses for your results. I told them as much afterward and they responded with their best race of the season.”
Sypert said the girls ran “the best race they were capable of” in the State victory. He added that he believes East Bernard underperformed a bit, contributing to the 21-point margin of victory.
In last year’s State Championship, Eustace finished the race with a two-point win over Holiday. This year Holiday finished third.
Skye Burns played her part masterfully as the team’s No. 1 runner. Burns finished 13th overall with a time of 12:31 and earned All-State honors. Molly McAtee placed 29th with a time of 12:48, Chandra Westbrook finished 32nd and ran a 12:51, Chloe Moore placed 38th with a 12:58 and Shelby White finished 46th and ran to a mark of 13:04. The sixth and seventh runners, Cara Henson and Harley Kile finished 99th and 136th with times of 13:48 and 14:41.
“People that don’t know a lot about cross country may be surprised that we beat East Bernard after they defeated us in the Regional,” Sypert said. “In cross country, it’s all about how you run that day. At Regionals, we didn’t run our best. At the State Meet we did. The best teams will be remembered for being their best at the biggest races. I couldn’t be more proud of these girls for what they’ve accomplished.”
Last year when Sypert got the news of the State victory, he was overcome with joy as he told the team the good news. This year he kept the news to himself for a bit and calmly called the girls over for a team meeting.
“Whatever happens today I want to let you all know I am very proud of you,” he said on a video recording posted on social media. “You left it all on the field. I want to let you know you finished…first.”
After the slight pause and word “first” slipped from his lips, the team exploded in joy as they realized they accomplished their goal of winning back-to-back State Championships.
Other video shows the girls singing Queen’s famous song “We are the Champions,” while in arm-in-arm embrace.
Last year the Lady Bulldogs were basically a brand new team, featuring a full cast of freshman and one sophomore (Moore) to its name. They came out of nowhere and surprised everyone except themselves to win on the biggest stage. Now the core have gotten a year older and increased the work and disciple they endure to be the best. The sky is the limit for this team.
It should be noted that this year’s Championship squad has a new runner on the team that joined after last year’s big win. McAtee won a spot on the team and steadily improved over the year, eventually working herself into the No. 2 runner on the Eustace depth chart. While the repeat was a true team effort, they couldn’t have done it without McAtee’s emergence.
The girls team rightfully stole the show at the Cross Country Championships, but let’s not forget that the boys ran a very good race as well. They claimed their third consecutive third place finish at the State Meet.
While pleased with the boys’ effort and dedication, Sypert said they were disappointed in the result.
“They’ve gotten third place the past two years and it was their goal all year to improve upon that,” he said. “Unfortunately they couldn’t do it. While the boys were happy that the girls won again, it stung a little just watching the celebration. We had the talent to do it this year, but it didn’t happen.”
While realistic with their expectations, Sypert doesn’t shortchange the boys’ accomplishments.
“This team is the fastest boys team in all my time coaching at Eustace,” Sypert said.
The boys were lead by senior Mark Zimmerer who placed 19th and ran a 17:10. Next was senior Preston Schwartz (40th , 17:28), Zane Arambula and Ericsen Gudjohnsen (46th and 47th, 17:34 and 17:36); Ayden Reed (70th, 17:54); Brandon Richardson (82nd, 18:02) and Gabe Purselley (106th, 18:32).
Coach Sypert says the teams will take a couple of weeks off practice before beginning light running again to stay in shape.