by JASON GORDON
The Hays High boys cross-country team was able to see what it was like to run on regional-meet ground for the first time since 2005 last season.
In five out of the last six years, that’s been a bus trip reserved for the Lady Rebel cross-country team.
But Hays’ Miriana Sigala, a departing senior who advanced to state individually for the second time in her career, was the only Lady Rebel who advanced past district.
“Advancing to regionals was gravy for the boys team because we came out of such a tough district,” said Hays head coach Cliff Buckley. “It was honestly a disappointing season for the girls because I really felt we had the team to make it out of district, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Rebel boys lost only two seniors from their 2011 team – Michael Normand and Tom Ayers – and return varsity veterans Ryan McSpadden, Logan Lindsey, Heath Agnew, Jason Peed and Anthony Lewis.
“Ryan is already in the spot Michael Normand was in last year,” Buckley said. “Their times on the track are almost identical. Ryan is getting to a place in his career where he should be in the top 20 at major events and competing for the top spots at smaller events.”
Buckley is also expecting big things from junior Esteban Villalpando.
“Esteban has been with us since he was a freshman and it’s been very cool to watch him develop as a runner,” he said. “He wasn’t very fast at first, but he’s really matured into his body and he’s the kind of guy who never stops running. He’s easily our No. 2 runner at this point and that really helps with our depth.”
Buckley said if his boys team advances to regionals again, he thinks they have a chance to finish a lot better than the 16th-place spot they earned a year ago.
“We kind of had that deer-in-the-headlights look last year,” Buckley said. “I hope if we go back it won’t be as big a deal to them. I would love to see them get a chance to finish in the top three and go to state, but we have a really tough region. Plus, just getting to the regional meet out of our district with teams like Boerne Champion, Lockhart and Alamo Heights will be difficult, but that will be our goal.”
Returning at the varsity level for the Hays girls will be Carly Hogue, Jennifer Colonnetta, Rose Hyak, Tabitha Rodriguez and Marissa Sigala.
One big change for all girls cross-country runners is, instead of the old two-mile distance they used to run at meets, they will run 3.1-miles (five kilometers).
“I think the new distance is going to make a lot of girls and a lot of teams nervous,” Buckley said. “I train our girls the same as I do our boys, so it shouldn’t make that big of a difference to them. I told them to embrace it because some teams are going to be freaked out. The ones who handle the new distance are the ones who are going to succeed.”
Buckley said he hopes last year’s disappointing sixth-place finish as a team at district will motivate his girls team.
“I think it was a wake-up call,” he said. “We’ve lived in the top three in district for so many years. I hope we can use that as motivation to get back there and advance to the regional meet like we’re used to doing.”
Hays’ boys and girls teams will compete at Burnet (Aug. 25), Lockhart (Sept. 1), Seguin (Sept. 8), Pflugerville (Sept. 14), Hays (Sept. 22), McNeil (Oct. 6), and Georgetown (Oct. 13). The District 27-4A meet is Oct. 27 in Lockhart. The regional meet will be held at a site to be determined on Nov. 3. The UIL State Cross Country Meet will be held at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on Nov. 10.