ROUND ROCK – A strong start to Saturday’s UIL 6A girls state cross country meet turned into a record finish for Hays High freshman Abby Parra.
By maintaining a consistent pace after the first mile of the race, Parra not only secured 18th place out of 150 runners with a time of 17.52.46, but also set a new personal record for herself.
Parra said the accomplishment solidified her mindset that she can keep up with the best the state has to offer.
“I know there were girls who were faster, but knowing my experience, I know I can stay up there with them,” Parra said.
Success for Parra began right from the starting gun, said Rebel head cross country coach Traci Hightower. Prior to the state meet, Hightower said she and Parra worked on keeping up with the lead pack within the first mile or so and maintaining that consistent pace.
Parra said she felt “refreshed” prior to hitting the course. Once she began, Parra said it felt “natural to get into my strides” in order to reach the lead pack, which occurred within the first few hundred yards.
“There was not a moment she hesitated,” Hightower said. “She got herself in the exact pocket we talked about and then stuck with the pace.”
But a key component was running at her own pace. Keeping a calm demeanor and approaching it as if it were just another run was imperative for Parra, who knew within the first mile she had what it took to stay with the top group.
“I just wanted to keep pace and see how far I could go with it,” Parra said.
Hightower said Parra stayed aggressive throughout the entire race, including the final 200 meters, where she passed a pair of runners down the stretch.
Obtaining a sub-20 minute race was one goal Hightower set for Parra, along with placing in the Top 20 and finishing under 18 minutes.
Both were accomplished as a result of Parra’s cross country experience at the middle school level. Parma’s middle school coaches helped to familiarize her with the sport and build confidence to compete at the varsity level, Hightower said.
For Hightower, seeing her third athlete reach the state level in five seasons shows her how “blessed I am” and the amount of talent in the Rebel cross country program.
“I see collectively how strong of a group and program we are and it makes me very proud,” Hightower said.