81° F Saturday, June 24, 2017

Intense competition for starting spots has brought the Lake Travis cross country team closer together rather than dividing the runners.

With several runners back on both the boys and girls teams, new coach Megan O’Connor has more depth than expected as the team prepares to start the season Friday at Concordia University.

“It’s going to be tough picking a varsity squad each week,” she said. “Any one of them could step up and have a great run. They’re challenging each other; it’s pretty awesome it’s pretty competitive. Having that atmosphere is really driving them, but at the end of the day, they’re still friends and teammates.”

On the girl’s side, senior Melena Pennycook and junior Elaine Howington lead the way, with Madison Hilger and Louisa Angly back in the mix as well. Freshman Andrea Mann and Natalie Evans have burst onto the scene and are steadily pushing to breakthrough to the top tier.

“They have a lot of potential, so I’m expecting them all to get faster every week. That’s what they’re showing me now. They’re all willing to work,” O’Connor said. “I expect when we’re ready to go to our district meet, they’re all going to be peaking, and I’m expecting them all to vastly improve based on work ethic and challenging each other.”

O’Connor is even eyeing a chance to take the team to regionals.

“I expect some girls to go to regionals individually,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do on the team side based on what the girls did over the summer; a lot of them are multisport athletes.”

The boy’s side is even more bunched together as the season gets set to start. Mason Slade, Casey Wolleat, Matias Zaragoza, Tanner Barton are leading the pack, with Blair Arney, Tyler Davies,  John Wacker and Tyler Searle, among others, right behind them.

“There’s literally a pack of them that are so fast and pushing each other, it’s like, ‘who is going to be first?’ ” O’Connor said. “Even now, some of them are starting to hang really close. I would say there’s a lot of depth in my boys group – a lot of them are soccer players, and a lot of them are runners, too.”

O’Connor is also glad to see the girls races extended from two miles, which only Texas and Oklahoma were still running throughout the entire nation, to a standard 5K race – the length of high school and college races around the country.

“It’s going to take a lot of conditioning, but they can totally do it,” she said. “I’m glad for the girls; I think they should do a 5K. The sport is about challenging themselves and running, so they should all be doing the 5K. Our girls are going to go out and are more than capable of running a fast 5K.”

Lake Travis hits the course 5 p.m. Friday at Concordia.

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