Repeat City: 2018 TAPPS State Cross Country Meet

WACO, TEXAS (October 29, 2018) — The operative word for Monday’s 2018 Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) state cross country meet was “Repeat”.

As in, repeat titlists.

Ten of 11 team (Bulverde Bracken Christian moved up a classification) and six of the eight returning individual champions (four of last year’s champions were seniors) defended their crowns from a year ago at Waco’s Cottonwood Creek Golf Course.

And the two new team champions for 2018 achieved a historic first while the other ended a long championship drought.

The best times of the day belonged to outgoing seniors Carter Cheeseman of Fort Worth Christian and Jackie Cruz of Houston St. Agnes Academy.

Running shoulder-to-shoulder early in the 5A boys race with Cheeseman was Austin St. Michael’s junior Jackson Long.

However, the University of Notre Dame verbal commit pulled away on the back half of the 5,000-meter course to become the first runner in TAPPS history to break 16 minutes in more than one state meet.

His winning time of 15:55.9 was the ninth best time in TAPPS annals since 1991.

Cheeseman’s winning time of 15:47.5 from a year ago is the fifth best.

And he becomes one of the rare athletes to win a state title in all four of his school seasons after winning TSSAA D2-AA state championships as a freshman and a sophomore at Brentwood Academy in Tennessee.

Long, meanwhile, has two third place and a runner-up finish in his three varsity seasons so far for the Crusaders.

6A GIRLS

Cruz, meanwhile, doesn’t have the deep running legacies that either Cheeseman or Long has.

In fact, after winning the district championship last year for St. Agnes Academy, her 13:12 two-mile time last year was 24th overall – and wasn’t even part of the Tigers top-five scorers for the team’s second place finish.

But the senior roared on Monday.

Even though Ursuline Academy’s Elise Welch and Fort Worth All Saints Episcopal’s Sophia Leidner had Cruz in their sights, neither were able to close the nine-second winning advantage Cruz held on them in her winning time of 12:08.5.

Cruz became St. Agnes’ fourth individual TAPPS state champion since 1995, joining former Longhorn Maureen Sweeney (1995), former Oklahoma Sooner Amanda Luksetich (1999) and four-time winner and former Rice Owl Traci Fraser (2000-2003).

It would lead the way for St. Agnes’ first team championship since 1995, when Sweeney anchored the team to its last championship.

And the 20 team points was the lowest of any girls squad at TAPPS’ top classification since the Tigers scored 27 in 1995.

Freshman Camille Napier and sophomores Sara Price and Emily Heinz were fourth, fifth and sixth overall, but 3-4-5 in team scoring, while sophomore Amelie Born was eighth overall (seventh in team).

1A BOYS

A year ago, Lubbock Christ The King’s Colby Sandoval finished second in TAPPS 2A just ten seconds behind two-time champion Ret Taylor of Lubbock All Saints Episcopal.

Their teams finished sixth and seventh, but in the most recent realignment Christ The King found itself separated from All Saints Episcopal and defending state champion Southcrest Christian.

However, they landed in 1A with a strong Weatherford Christian School program.

Sandoval, though, dropped his time 45 seconds to pull Christ The King up to second place in 1A on Monday while earning himself his first TAPPS individual state championship with a 17:07.7 performance.

Defending champion sophomore Nathan Peirsol from Bulverde Living Rock Academy was fourth overall in 18:47.6, while Cedar Park Summit Christian junior Paul Sherrill and Lubbock Kingdom Preparatory junior Lincoln Fleischman rounded on the 1A boys top three.

Weatherford Christian School held off Christ The King for their second straight 1A state championship with 66 points – to Christ The King’s 72.

Sophomore Andrew Meeks was the Lions’ leading runner, finishing fifth overall in 19:03.8. He was the only Lion scorer who didn’t score for Weatherford Christian a year ago.

1A GIRLS

Sarah Clifford had been in the 1A Girls top five three times for Arlington NorthStar School.

Bulverde Bracken Christian’s Riley Stirm was second in 2016 and third last year.

San Angelo Cornerstone Christian’s Hannah Slate, after finishing 31st in her freshman year, improved to eighth in 2016 and sixth the last two years.

And her teammate Jessica Simon drew the runner-up card last year and on Monday.

All of them – since 2015 – couldn’t dethrone Faith Academy of Bellville’s Brianna Gallaher in the TAPPS 1A girls division as the outgoing senior posted a winning time of 12:40.8 – to beat Simon by 38 seconds and become one of only five athletes in TAPPS history – since 1991 – to win the state cross country title all four years.

However, it was Conroe Lifestyle Christian who recorded their first state cross country championship – either boys or girls – in school history.

The Victors were the last of the five scoring teams to put a runner across in the finish line when senior Janel Rubio crossed in 19th place overall (scoring 8th) with her 16:31, two-mile effort.

But four of the next eight scoring runners were sophomores Jenny Rubio, Leslie Garcia, Jillian Peach and junior Hannah Matheson to seal a close three-point win over Edinburg Harvest Christian.

Peach was just eight seconds ahead of Edinburg Harvest Christian junior Sofia Villescas, who scored two places later.

Had the two runners switched places, the championship award would have been heading to the Rio Grande Valley instead of Montgomery County.

6A BOYS

The next race – 6A Boys — featured the end of one TAPPS’ individual running dynasties – and a win that made one school the winningest boys program in TAPPS history since 1991.

With the second-best time of the day, El Paso Cathedral senior Brandon Seagraves became only the 12th runner since 1991 to win a TAPPS state cross country title three of their four years with his 15-second, 16:20.6 win over Dallas Bishop Dunne’s Martin Chavez.

Chavez, a sophomore, and teammate junior Jonathan Cantu, finished second and third overall.

The school’s third boys champion since Cathedral joined TAPPS from the TCIL, Seagraves had led his teams to ties for second and first in 2015 and 2016, respectively, followed by a second- and fourth-place the last two seasons.

San Antonio Antonian College Prep had entered Monday’s meet tied with Corpus Christi Incarnate Word Academy with 10 team state championships – and a current streak of three and eight of the last nine in their classification.

For the Apaches to win on Monday, they weren’t able to seal the win until the latest in the race that they ever had.

It wasn’t until junior Donald Decotis crossed the finish line in 26th place – a minute and 42 seconds after Seagraves had – that Antonian was ensured of earning their 11th state title since 2000.

The Apaches’ 76 points were even higher than last year’s all-time high of 67, where three other teams were within 18 points.

The four scoring runners in front of Decotis were all freshmen and sophomores, meaning that Devlyn Lovell’s squad will continue to be the force that the 6A Boys title must be run through.

Sophomore Adrian Losoya led Antonian with a sixth place, 17:17.5 finish. Freshman Benjamin Tijerina was 11th in 17:35, while sophomores Hunter Haynes and David Gomez were 13th and 19th, respectively, and stopping the clock in 17:40.7 and 17:52.3.

Houston St. Thomas and Argyle Liberty Christian were second and third with 96 and 101 points, respectively.

It was the Eagles’ highest team finish since 2012.

5A GIRLS

A year ago, Fort Worth Southwest Christian freshman Reagan High won 10 straight meets as an eighth grader at Fort Worth St. Paul Lutheran School and easily captured the Lutheran Middle School State Cross Country meet.

She was 15th in the elite race at Nike South in late September in a race that featured St. Agnes’ Camille Napier and Jackie Cruz, and scored four meet wins during the season, including the 1-5A district crown.

And High wasn’t frazzled with a former state champion and runner-up on her heels, in Regents School of Austin’s Natalia Saenz, as she ran to a career-best 12:15.2 over two miles to win the 5A Girls title by five and a half seconds over Saenz.

After denying Sugar Land Fort Bend Christian Academy senior Hannah Marut a championship in 2016, Saenz has been kept off the top spot of the podium now by a senior – San Antonio TMI-Episcopal’s Ana Ross last year – and High, a freshman.

Saenz’s time was 12:20.7, while Austin St. Michael’s Catholic senior Mary Hodapp was third in 12:30.6.

Hodapp improved from 22nd her freshman year to finishes her last three years of sixth, fifth and third.

Most importantly, though, it was Hodapp who led the Crusaders to their fourth straight title.

They won it by scoring 36 points with runners finishing in third, fourth, sixth, ninth and 14th – six fewer points than their win two years ago.

San Antonio Christian School and Regents School of Austin were separated by two points for second and third while Tyler Bishop Gorman and San Antonio Providence Catholic had just four points between them for fourth and fifth.

St. Michael’s squad featured three freshmen, a sophomore and three seniors.

Senior Kinga Parrish, individually, has finished second (2015), fifth (2016), ninth (2017) and sixth (2018); however, she ran for Regents School of Austin her freshman year.

The other senior, Lyla Senn, has run in the state meet all four years for St. Michael’s, scoring in 2016 and 2017.

2A BOYS

In the most recent TAPPS realignment, the one school that dropped two classifications – from 4A to 2A – was Austin San Juan Diego Catholic.

A year ago, after finishing ninth as a freshman, then-sophomore Abraham Avila-Martinez found himself fourth at last year’s state meet with a pair of The Woodlands Christian Academy runners in front of and behind him.

On Monday, Avila-Martinez had nobody in front of him while he improved his time 33 seconds to 16:37.8 to capture the 2A Boys individual title.

It was the second fastest winning time at the 2A level in 28 years, with the fastest coming two years ago from Fort Worth Bethesda Christian’s Spencer Doyle (16:20.2)

In fact, Avila-Martinez’s mark is only the fourth sub-17 minute winning time at the 2A level since 1991.

Lubbock Southcrest Christian won its second consecutive 2A Boys team championship with a 14-point win over Amarillo Ascension Academy after finishing third in 2015 (1A) and 2016 (2A).

And they did so with four of the top five scorers as they had last year.

Junior Alex Spencer was third overall in 17:34.3 after finishing seventh and fourth the last two years.

Sophomore Jacob Kidder and seniors Stephen Hunt and Tanner Grant all contributed to the win for the second straight year while freshman Landon Delgado and Kaleb Gaona and senior Cason Holly rounded out this year’s winning squad.

Hunt scored all four years for the Warriors.

Shiner St. Paul Catholic was third overall with 104 points. The three teams in fourth through sixth – Lubbock All Saints Episcopal, Abilene Christian School and Fort Worth Bethesda Christian – were within 13 points of the Cardinals.

2A GIRLS

Shiner St. Paul Catholic freshman Julianna Davis put the rest of TAPPS 2A on notice that she intends to be reckoned with her entire high school career.

With a commanding 13-second win over Bryan St. Joseph Catholic’s Lacy Matocha, Davis became the second freshman of the meet to win, doing so in a time of 13:09.2.

And, more importantly, especially to the Cardinal faithful, she was the first TAPPS individual champion – boys or girls – since at least 1991.

And this despite 11 state titles between the two programs.

With Davis’ win, she denied Matocha of ascending to the top spot after having to run the last two years against one of the top runners in TAPPS history, Waco Live Oak Classical’s Celia Holmes.

Matocha, who finished second in 13:22.9, ended her cross country career with a fifth-place 3A finish her freshman year and a fourth-place and a pair of second place finishes in class 2A.

Huntsville Alpha Omega Academy sophomore Jessica Kohers rounded out the top three in 13:30.6.

Shiner St. Paul won easily, scoring 30 points for its most dominant win of its nine girls state titles since 2008.

The Lady Cardinals have won nine of the last 11 state championships with a consecutive streak of six.

The nine state girls championship makes Shiner St. Paul the third most dominant girls program since 1991 behind Dallas Ursuline Academy and Muenster Sacred Heart’s 11 state championships each.

Temple Holy Trinity Catholic was second with 97 points while Dallas Cambridge School was third with 110. Bulverde Bracken Christian, which moved to 2A after realignment, tied with Fort Worth Bethesda Christian, but grabbed fourth on a tiebreaker.

5A BOYS

While Carter Cheeseman was busy building his lead over Austin St. Michael’s Jackson Long on the back half of the Cottonwood Creek Golf Course, San Antonio Christian School was putting the final touches on its fourth boys state championship in five seasons.

The Lions earned their 41-point victory over Austin St. Michael’s Catholic behind two runners who scored in last year’s championship race – junior Joel Carlson and sophomore Samual Ryan Blalock.

The two finished third and fifth overall, respectively, in 17:36.3 and 17:43.8.

Two juniors – Matt Nellor and Calvin Landis – and freshman Fernando Gallegos rounded out the scoring for the Lions. Nellor was 11th in 18:01.0 while Gallegos and Landis finished 19th and 22nd, respectively, in 18:40.8 and 18:48.7.

Fort Worth Southwest Christian was third behind San Antonio Christian and St. Michael’s.

4A GIRLS

The Woodlands Christian Academy didn’t just rebuild after losing four seniors that ran at last year’s state meet. They reloaded.

While Ellie Catron, Emily Janek and Fern Shirley – two juniors and a sophomore among them – all scored for the Warriors on Monday, the team’s other four runners were all freshman.

Head coach Tom Earle’s squad turned in the second most dominant performance of the meet behind Houston St. Agnes Academy’s girls with their 22 points for the win.

And it was the most dominant in TAPPS 4A since 1996, when the classification was first created. Houston Awty International School five years ago scored 27 points.

Junior Ellie Catron defended her individual title with a crushing 55-second victory over teammate – and freshman – Lindsey Washington. Catron won in 12:35.7 while Washington crossed in 13:30.8.

Houston St. Thomas’ Episcopal School’s Reese McDermott, a junior who was 12th overall the year before, rounded on the top of the podium with a third place time of 13:43.6.

Jasek was fourth overall in 13:44.0 while freshman Isabella Krantzcke and Shirley turned in times of 14:09.5 and 14:13.8 – good for 9th and 10th overall – to round out the Warriors’ scoring runners.

Five teams followed TWCA within eight points of each other.

Geneva School of Boerne outpointed Dallas Cristo Rey College Prep by one with 142 points. Schertz John Paul II Catholic followed Cristo Rey by two points in fourth with 145.

Houston St. Thomas’ Episcopal and Lubbock Christian School tied for fifth at 150 points and St. Thomas’ Episcopal won the tiebreaker for fifth.

3A BOYS

Dallas The Covenant School made short work of much of the rest of the field as their first five runners were among the top 11 finishers to deliver the school its third consecutive state championship.

Their 31 points were the lowest in five years in the 3A classification after Red Oak Ovilla Christian won in 2013 with 22.

Five of the Knights’ runners from last year, who all scored in 2017, returned.

Junior Jack Howland was third overall in 18:04.5, then junior Seth McKinnon, freshman William Peters and senior Hogan Hurley crossed the finish line in 6th through 8th places – and within 12 seconds of one another.

Sophomore Jack Peterson, new to the mix in 2018, was 11th in 19:05.8 to sew up Covenant’s championship.

Round Rock Concordia High School, who had the race’s individual winner in senior Ernest Bogart, was second overall with 51 points while Watauga Harvest Christian was third with 74.

Bogart outraced Dallas Lutheran High School senior Joshua Dixon to the finish line by seven seconds in 17:53.2.

The last three seasons, Bogart had raced for UIL 6A Pflugerville Hendrickson and missed the UIL Region 2 meet for the first time a year ago after competing at the state meet as a sophomore.

The Cardinals’ next three runners – seniors Jordan and James Jolly and freshman Jake Sellers – had all helped the school’s Fall Soccer team two weeks earlier to the state championship match before falling to Nacogdoches Regents Academy.

Jordan Jolly was ninth overall in 18:50.6, while Sellers and James Jolly – the Cardinals’ leading scorer during the state championship tournament – followed in 13th and 14th places with times of 19:24.8 and 19:28.1, respectively.

The Jolly twins were both forwards while Sellers the team’s freshman goalkeeper.

3A GIRLS

Besides Ellie Catron of The Woodlands Christian Academy, the other female in TAPPS that most believed would repeat was Round Rock Christian Academy’s Madison Brown.

And she didn’t disappoint, as the senior put almost 34 seconds on her nearest competitor – Dallas The Covenant School senior Emma Kackley – to win the 3A Girls individual title in 12:53.0.

Kackley crossed in 13:26.9 followed by The Woodlands Legacy Prep sophomore Caroline Freeman, who stopped the clock in 13:32.2.

For Kackley and her teammates, it didn’t take long for Dallas The Covenant School to add to the boys state crown the race before.

The Knights won with 36 points, but not with quite the gap of 61 points that they had a year earlier.

Spring Providence Classical put two – sophomores Mia Zuniga and Cara Post – across the finish line before Covenant got their first five there, but immediately followed with runners in the 15th, 19th and 20th scoring positions.

The Paladins, who moved up from 2A after realignment, were second with 69 points while The Woodlands Legacy Prep rounded out the top three with 103 points.

Both schools pushed Temple Central Texas Christian from last year’s runner-up spot to fourth.

Covenant had four runners who competed on last year’s state championship team and then added three freshmen, two of whom scored.

Freshman Sophie Davis was fourth overall in 13:40.8, followed by sophomore Maggie Taylor in sixth (scoring fifth) in 13:47.8, freshman Katherine Hanna in 14th (11th scoring) in 14:38.7 and sophomore Ellie Kackley in 17th (14th scoring) in 14:51.3.

Dallas The Covenant School became the 27th program to win both the boys and the girls title in the same year since 1991.

4A BOYS

Both League City Bay Area Christian senior Habtamu Geta and The Woodlands Christian Academy were likely favorites to repeat, and they did so in familiar fashion.

Geta held back the Warriors a bit better on Monday as he won with a 15.4-second margin – more than the narrow three second win from a year ago.

The Woodlands Christian Academy then proceeded to put four of the next five runners across the finish line.

Sophomore Josh Mueck, third overall last year, was second in 17:29.7.

The Shearer brothers – senior Josh and sophomore Ben – followed the same order to the finish as they had a year ago as Josh was third overall in 17:43.6 and Ben fourth in 17:56.9.

Dallas Shelton School senior Peter Dethrow broke up the TWCA party with his fifth-place finish – up three spots from last year – in 18:09.9, then senior Brett Odom was sixth in 18:12.4.

It would be another 16 runners before sophomore Caleb Bigler confirmed the victory with a 19:38.0.

Dallas Cristo Rey College got all five of their scoring runners across the line before Bigler, led by sophomore Jose Chavez’s ninth-place 18:44.6, but it wasn’t enough to lessen the 40-point margin that the Warriors had for the win.

Schertz John Paul II and Houston St. Thomas’ Episcopal locked horns for third and fourth, separated by four points, while only a point went between Geneva School of Boerne and Sugar Land Logos Preparatory Academy for fifth.

Just one race after Covenant pulled the first school double of the day, TWCA did so too to make the Warriors the 28th program to win the both the boys and the girls title in the same year since 1991.

By Jon Walk
Photos by David Fuller