The Marble Falls High School cross country team is experiencing a transition in many ways.
In addition to being realigned to District 24-4A from District 25-5A, the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs are still determining their top runners’ order.
The boys have four returners — Marco Almazan, Ezekiel Atkinson, Nick Dahl and Tyler Hamblin — and several others vying to be in the top five, which will yield a team score.
They’ll get their first chance to make their case at the Johnson City 1.5-mile Relay Meet Friday, Aug. 19, at 8:30 a.m. at LBJ High School in Johnson City. The girls run 30 minutes earlier.
“This is a fun relay in Johnson City,” head coach Chris Schrader said. “It’s 1.5 miles for each runner.”
The Mustangs have experienced recent success thanks to placing 12th at the Class 5A state meet a year ago. Dahl, a junior, and Hamblin, a sophomore, were on the seven-runner squad with Dahl finishing 39th overall by completing the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes 48.2 seconds and Hamblin was 53rd in 16:59.7. Dahl was the first Mustang to complete the race, while Hamblin was the third Mustang finisher.
“Nick and Tyler are going to be looked up to lead the team,” Schrader said. “Tyler is highly competitive. He brings that strength to the team. He keeps it in perspective. He wants the team to do well. He’s willing to do his part.”
One athlete Schrader has high hope for is Blake Cockrell.
“His commitment level has changed,” the coach said. “When he catches form, he and Ezekiel can do damage.”
The new district includes Burnet, Georgetown Gateway, Jarrell, Lampasas and Lago Vista.
“I think Jarrell and Lago Vista are well coached,” Schrader said. “I don’t know much about Lampasas. I know they have good work ethic and you can’t discount that when you get kids out. Burnet, Lago Vista and Gateway have great facilities, good coaching, terrain to train on.”
When it comes to favorites and individual runners in the district, no athlete is esteemed more than Burnet senior Hudson Bennett, who finished fifth at the Class 4A state meet in 2021. Schrader concedes it’s difficult to talk about this district and Class 4A Region III without Bennett, who has won numerous district championships. However, he pointed out, Bennett is only one runner; it takes five to earn a team score.
And he is coaching his runners not to be fearful of Bennett or the results of the district and regional meets.
“It’s important that we allow them not to be afraid of failure,” he said. “We have to teach that to a kid and teach them to recover from failure and go to the next performance to make it better.”
The Lady Mustangs are expected to be paced by Ruby Carrillo and Carmella Lozano. In Class 4A, girls run two miles instead of the 5K course like the boys.
“They seem to be the team leaders,” Schrader said. “They will need to do the work. They’re getting after it. They’re showing up for the runs.”
What will help Marble Falls is the district meet will be conducted on its high school campus Oct. 10. What helps the district members is Marble Falls is hosting the Leonel Manzano Invitational Oct. 1 the will allow the competition to get a glimpse and feel for it. Schrader said he’ll put the course online to allow teams to study it before the meets.
“We have a home field,” Schrader said. “We should have a distinct advantage knowing the course. We have a fast course.”
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