BY TONY EIERDAM
For the first time in recent memory, Mineral Wells High School head cross country coach Jackie Harvey will send two teams to the regional cross country meet as the Lady Rams placed first and the Rams second at the District 6-3A cross country meet.
“I was a little surprised, but not really when you think about how hard these teams work,” Harvey said. “The girls and boys have worked hard since school let out in May, and most of them worked all summer long whether it was with summer track or on their own.
“That’s what you have to do to be successful in cross country. You have to work all summer long – you can’t lay off the summer and try to catch up in the fall. Our kids have really bought into the system, and they have worked hard, and it has paid off.”
The Class 3A, Region I meet will be held at hilly Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. The top 10 individuals and top three teams advance to the state meet in Round Rock.
“I don’t think the course will be a hindrance to us,” Harvey said. “We run on hilly courses during the season, and the hill at Mae Simmons won’t be as tough as the hill we ran at the Decatur meet. It is a big hill, but we have faced hills all year long. The kids are prepared.”
Lady Rams’ runners Karessa Fowler and Alex Pearcy finished 1-2 at the district meet, and both have a good chance to qualify for state. Pearcy qualified for the state meet last year as a freshman. If the Lady Rams do qualify a runner for the state meet, it will be the third straight year they have done so.
“Alex and Karessa ran in summer track, and they competed in meets all summer long,” Harvey said. “That’s why they are at the point the are now – because of the work they put in over the summer.
“Flor also worked hard this summer, but she mainly ran on her own. Flor has been a big part of the cross country program since junior high when she moved here from El Salvador.
“She has really contributed a lot. Flor worked harder this year than I have ever seen her work. She was determined to be a part of the team, and her hard work has paid off. She put in a lot of time over the summer on her own.”
Harvey will also take three freshmen to the regional meet – Katie Rivera, Natalie Ragland and Taylor Otwell.
“Rivera is our No. 3 girl overall, and she has been a big part of the team,” Harvey said. “Natalie and Taylor have also contributed a whole lot. Those three freshmen have really been the difference in the team. If I had not had them I don’t know where we would be.”
The Rams are led by Juvaree Sutton, who placed fifth overall.
“The guys have been up and down, but they are young,” Harvey said. “Both the boys and girls are young with a lot of sophomores and freshmen on varsity.
“The boys have really come on as of late, and several of them worked hard over the summer.
“Juvaree competed in summer track all year. It really helped him. Preston Brooks worked hard in the summer and has also made tremendous stride. He may have improved more than anybody on the team.”
Harvey likes his runners’ chances at earning a state berth.
“You have to consider Alex a favorite to qualify for state since she made it last year,” Harvey said. “There is no reason why she shouldn’t qualify for state again.
“It will be tough to get a team out to state in this meet. There are some tough teams in this meet, especially on the girls’ side with Brownwood, Iowa Park and Dalhart, teams returning that made it to state last year.
“But, anything can happen at the regional meet. It will be all about who is ready to run and who is not. I think our chances are good, and I feel good about both teams.
“It has been a joy working with these athletes, and this has been one of my favorite years to coach cross country. The kids bought into the program, and they are a good group of kids who work hard.
“It’s hard when you ask kids to come to practice every day at 6 a.m. But these kids have displayed a lot of discipline.
“They are a pleasure to coach. it has been a lot of fun, and I think we will have more fun before it is all over with.”