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Burnet distance runners lead Bulldogs, Lady Dawgs to top district finishes

CAPTION: The Burnet distance running program includes Josvanny Ramirez (left), Hudson Bennett, Victor Aviles, Gustavo Vega, coach Kristi Jones, Maya Calderon, Shaelyn Poe and Isaias Zarate. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

On a track named after the greatest middle-distance runner in Burnet County history — 2004 Marble Falls High School graduate and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano — that is light gray with purple stripes, the Burnet Bulldogs and Lady Dawgs painted it Kelly green on April 13.

The Leonel Manzano track was the site of the 2023 District 24-4A track and field championship meet in which the Lady Dawgs won both the varsity and junior varsity championships, while the Bulldogs were the runners-up in the varsity and junior varsity divisions.

Even the great Leo the Lion would have been impressed with Burnet’s distance runners.

Let’s look at the boys varsity races first. Sophomore Victor Aviles captured three gold medals during the District 24-4A meet: the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Senior teammate Hudson Bennett, who has drawn multiple comparisons to Manzano, took silver in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. And sophomore Isaias Zarate finished fourth in the 800 and 3,200 meters and fifth in the 1,600 meters. They earned 56 of Burnet’s 132 points in the team standings to finish as the district runner-up.

Not to be outdone, sophomore Gustavk Vega won the 1,600 meters and took silver in the 3,200 meters, while freshman Matthew Resendez captured bronze in the 3,200 meters in the junior varsity division. They combined to give the Bulldogs 26 of their 136 points to become the district runner-up in the team standings.

And the Lady Dawgs were even better.

Freshman Asah Roy has assembled a year that has people talking much like Manzano had the county talking. She took gold in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Senior teammate Shaelyn Poe finished second in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, while sophomore Maya Calderon was third in the 1,600 and senior Autumn Stires took bronze in the 3,200. Calderon was first in the 800 meters, while sophomore Kori Haile was second and sophomore Addison Huffman finished fifth. In all, they scored 78 of the Lady Dawgs’ 188 points to lead Burnet to the district title.

Those finishes aren’t by accident, Calderon said.

“We’re all trying to be together as much as possible,” she said.

In the junior varsity division, four of the six runners in the 3,200 meters wore Kelly green led by freshman Shelby Hudgins, who was the silver medalist, while junior Amberlyn Glasscock and freshman Josie McDavid were fourth and fifth. In the 800 meters, sophomore Brooke Bowman placed fourth, while Glasscock was sixth and sophomore Faith Green came in seventh. Hudgins won gold in the 1,600 meters, while McDavid was seventh and sophomore Jaylee Messer came in eighth. They contributed 21 of the Lady Dawgs’ 215 total points that captured Burnet its second district championship of the meet.

“We practice really hard,” Roy said. “We push each other in practice, and it’s paid off.”

The Burnet runners and the head coaches attribute one person to Burnet’s dominance in the district races: coach Kristi Jones.

“Coach Jones is an outstanding coach,” Poe said.

“They start practices before everybody else, they finish before everybody else,” Lady Dawgs head coach Crystal Shipley said.

“They are the heartbeat of our program,” Bulldogs head coach Ben Speer said.

The Lady Dawgs and Bulldogs noted the toughest competition might come from themselves, adding that practices are fun and effective. They all laughed when asked which team finishes first.

“We race the boys,” Roy said. “We’re a team.”

“it’s pretty cool,” Poe added. “We’re a strong team.”

“I think ‘fun’ is the best word for it,” Jones said. “They have a unity, they feed off each other. I think they’re a very humble group.”

Jones noted this type of success doesn’t happen overnight, adding she has been working with these athletes for the past four years.

“I started with Hudson’s class,” she said. “I’ve had Victor and Isaias since they were seventh graders. They have a lot of heart, they have a lot of love for what they do. They have a lot of love for this sport and for each other. Hudson has been the role model. He’s definitely left his mark. Victor has filled his shoes. I can’t think of one without the other.”

About the only person surprised by Aviles’ success at the district meet was the runner himself, noting the difficulty of beating Bennett.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve those in all three,” he said. “(Bennett) is really supportive, he encourages us to do our best. He’s a really great guy. He’s Hudson Bennett.”

Bennett predicted more greatness from Aviles, who is mastering the most important part of a race — the finish.

“He’s very talented,” he said. “He’s going to win state in the 800. That kick at the end. Victor is going to lead the program into a whole other growth. It’s amazing to pass it to him.”

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