By Moses Leos III
During her tenure as a coach at Dahlstrom Middle School, Traci Hightower always knew Gabby Bosquez’s raw ability and work ethic made her an athlete to beat at a track meet.
Several years later, Hightower, who is now the head cross country coach at Hays High, helped guide Bosquez to last weekend’s UIL Class 6A girls state cross country meet.
For Hightower, watching Bosquez progress to state in only her first year in cross country was a matter of molding her athletic ability.
“We knew the grit she had. Once she got comfortable with the idea of a 5K, she would be a natural,” Hightower said. “We told her at the beginning of the season she would be surprised at what she could accomplish if she believed in herself.”
Hightower said she began Bosquez much like any other beginning runner. She focused on body movement and foot strike while running, along with how to pace one’s self during a race.
But during the process, Hightower said she always kept in mind Bosquez’s natural abilities.
Once Bosquez entered her first race, her competitiveness and athleticism took over, Hightower said.
“She found herself in the front of the pack,” Hightower said. “She had more in her.”
From there, Hightower continued to see Bosquez progress as a cross country runner.
The next step was preparing Bosquez for the heightened competition at the district meet.
Bosquez transitioned from working on pacing and running in a group, to placement for advancing the season, Hightower said.
Basketball, which is Bosquez’s first sport, became a point of reference. Thinking of the district and region meets as playoff games, where teams must be patient, was the focus, Hightower said.
Bosquez’s physical ability and mental toughness rose to the top. Bosquez showed her mental fortitude when she excelled on an unfamiliar course at the Region IV meet in Corpus Christi.
Bosquez took what she had learned to Saturday’s meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
She quickly found how competitive the state level could be. Bosquez said her goal was to stay within the top 20 runners and gradually move her way up the standings.
But Bosquez said she got “trapped” by a large group toward the first 800 meters as runners were closely packed together.
“My pacing and stride wasn’t as smooth as I wanted to be,” Bosquez said. She added her speed fluctuated until she got herself in a “good place” midway through the second mile.
Bosquez battled against a field of runners who had previous cross country experience.
“You can tell people have been working and they do this continuously through the preseason and postseason,” Bosquez said. “You can see it in their form in running.”
But for Bosquez, the ability to reach the state level was a meaningful experience. She hopes to improve her cross country progress as she continues play on the hardwood for next season.
“It’s something to be proud of and, regardless of what you did, you competed against the best. You are making yourself strong,” Bosquez said on competing at state. “You want to compete against the best if anything. It means you’re going to get better competing here.”