Lady Bear cross-country team finishes as state runner-up
La Vernia Lady Bear cross-country athletes and coaches celebrate their second-place finish at the state meet Nov. 12 in Round Rock.
ROUND ROCK -- The La Vernia girls cross-country team blazed new territory for the program this past Saturday at Round Rock’s Old Settlers’ Park.
The team entered the championship race ranked fourth among all Class 3A teams. Just seven days earlier, the Lady Bears qualified for state at the Region IV Championships, finishing second behind fifth-ranked Liberty Hill. On this day, however, La Vernia saved its best for last. A great team effort enabled them to crush not only the Lady Panthers from Liberty Hill by 77 points, but also the second- and third-ranked teams from Decatur and Sanger. Only defending state champion Lucas Lovejoy placed ahead of La Vernia. The runners dealt not only with a loaded field, but an unseasonably hot day, and winds gusts reaching 30-plus mph, as well.
“Our kids had some great workouts leading up to the championships,” said Head Coach Richard Hinojosa. “We’re very young, but we’ve raced in some big meets this year and have done extremely well against quality competition.”
Freshmen Olivia Hinojosa and Madison Trees were both top 10 medalists, placing third and fourth -- the highest placing ever at state in either the boys or girls cross-country program. Only defending state silver medalist, Liberty Hill senior, and University of Alabama signee, Susan Kemper, and defending state champion, Lovejoy junior Katie Ruhala, finished ahead of the young Lady Bears. The freshman tandem also beat five athletes who were top 10 state medalists from a year ago.
“We’re certainly not a two-girl team, but they gave us a big boost,” Hinojosa said. “It’s like having two starting quarterbacks.
“The whole team understood going in what was expected of them and they all knew that they had to perform well,” he added. “On this stage, everyone on the other teams is talented, so our kids knew that over-achieving was their only option. We’ve been talking about getting up on the awards podium since June, but they’ve put in the work to back it up. I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
Scoring for the Lady Bears were bronze medalist Olivia Hinojosa (12:02.73), Trees (12:03.19, 4th), sophomores Bailee Vrana (12:36.83, 17th) and Shaley Trammell (12:55.53, 33rd), and junior Shayler Ring (13:14.77, 54th). Also racing for the Bears were freshman Isabelle Reynosa (13:22.87, 66th) and junior Brianna Kruciak (13:27.83, 76th).
Vrana, the lone qualifier from a year ago, lent her experience and leadership to the team. She improved her placing from 41st a year ago to 17th. This was Trammell’s first year to come out for the sport, and Ring is a hurdler who came out last year to get in better running condition.
“Those two were another big reason for our success,” Hinojosa said. “That, and our girls have truly embraced the ‘TEAM’ mentality. We’re excited about the possibilities for next year!”
The Lady Bear cross-country team finishes its season with an amazing record of 161-4.