With the attention football gets in East Texas, Kilgore High School head boys cross-country coach Phillip Lane has put together a nice little – well, dynasty.
The Bulldogs’ cross-country team has won its district championship for four years running, and Lane is committed to making sure that number rolls to five at the end of this season.
On the girls’ side, coach Heidi Hagan has found a talent pool of her own with some freshmen talent.
Both Kilgore cross-country teams ran in last Saturday’s Tyler Lee Cross-Country Classic at the University of Texas in Tyler. And while the results still aren’t where Lane and Hagan ultimately want to be, Lane said he saw much improvement from the first meet of the season two weeks ago in Longview.
“We definitely ran a lot better (at Tyler Lee),” Lane said. “I didn’t think we ran well at all in that first meet. Not that we don’t have the people that can run, because we do. I’m trying to push some competitive buttons right now. …We did run a lot better in Tyler. But it’s not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination.”
Kilgore’s boys finished third as a team at the Lee-hosted meet, and the Lady Bulldogs checked in sixth, both in large fields – the boys’ field had 21, the girls, 26.
Josh Fletcher placed 17th overall, finishing the 5K in a time of 18 minutes, 20.78 seconds. Fletcher, a junior, has led Kilgore’s runners in both meets this season.
Gregorio Alvarez finished 28th overall (18:54.51), and Jose Canchola finished 30th (18:57.29). Austin Bain, a freshman, finished 38th (19:15.54) and Victor Rangel was 40th (19:26.39). Mitchell Molandes was 42nd (19:33.23), Ab Herrera 47th (19:45.22), and Noah Odom 52nd (20:02.95).
Freshmen doing well was just a thing on Saturday, because Kilgore’s Zoe Craven put up the second-most impressive number of the day. Craven, a club soccer player in her “spare” time, ran the girls course in 11 minutes, 47.79 seconds, finishing second overall.
Christina Rosas was 15th (12:25.84), Emma Taylor was 35th (13:08.68), Jackie Estrella was 53rd (13:33.28), Maria Whitaker 70th (13:58.25), and two more runners – Meliza Vega and Skyelar Howell – rounded out the field, Vega finishing in 14:55 and Howell in 15:20.35.
Back on Sept. 2, Kilgore finished second overall in the Backwoods Gallop meet at LeTourneau University in Longivew, but second overall behind district rival Spring Hill, something that doesn’t normally happen.
Fletcher was third overall in that meet; Kilgore’s girls were second, as well, and Emma Taylor had a second-place finish overall.
Over the course of the boys’ four-year run, Kilgore has held the district trophy every time, sent runners to regionals throughout, and even had a state qualifier – Clayton Fletcher – that’s currently running collegiate cross-country right now. The Bulldogs practice every day, Lane said, and know where they’ve been and where they want to be.
“We’ll get there,” he laughed. “One way or another, we’ll get there.”
KHS runs at Longview's Lear Park on Friday, a meet hosted by Hallsville High School.