While no coach will tell anyone that more than a month off between competitive action is part of any season plan, it is exactly what many cross country runners throughout the Greater Houston area and beyond have been forced to deal with following Hurricane Harvey.
Many of the Cougar runners were able to stay on track with their workouts, but often they were held in between offering assistance to families that had been affected by the hurricane.
While a mid-September meet would typically be a good opportunity to sketch out each squad and start prepping for districts, with 30+ days since their last meet, the Cougar harriers were looking at their second “rust-buster” of what has become an abbreviated season when they traveled to Dayton for the Bronco Invitational on September 16.
Leading the way again for the boys was junior captain Stephen Slage, who finished tenth in the varsity boys race with a time of 18:52.80 over the 5000 meter (3.1 mile) course. Senior Matthew Anderson (45th, 20:34.80) was the only other Cougar in the top 50. The varsity boys tallied 374 points for a sixteenth-place finish in the team standings.
The JV girls, led by Helen Wu’s eighteenth-place run, had the best finish of the Kempner entries – trailing only five teams in their division. Wu’s 16:06.40 clocking over the two-mile route put her just two places, and about seven seconds, ahead of the Coog’s second finisher, Iman Ahmed (16:13.10). Dua Sayeed (31st, 16:56.20), Mariela Hernandez (37th, 17:36.90) and Amy Romero (47th, 17:49.00) rounded out the scoring quintet. The final tally for the team gave them 136 points.
The highest-placing Kempner runner was Brandon Phegley, who struck silver in the boys JV division, who ran the same 5000 meter course as the varsity boys. The freshman also had the second-fastest time on the team, crossing the line in 19:18.30. Another newcomer to the squad, junior Francis Ogbonna, trailed not far behind in 21:14, good for ninth-place overall. Cesar Hernandez (46th, 24:23.10) also finished within the top 50 runners. That trio helped lead the boys to a sixth-place finish in the team race – matching the girls – by scoring 142 points.
Next up for the Cougar harriers are back-to-back meets, as the teams will head to Pasadena’s Strawberry Parkon Friday morning for the Runnin’ Texans Invitational, hosted by Sam Rayburn HS. They’ll follow that up with a trip to Brenham on Saturday morning to race at one of the toughest courses in the state at the Brenham Hillacious XC Invitational. A number of top teams in the state are expected to toe the line at this popular meet, which should provide the Kempner runners of a preview of what they can expect if they advance to the regional meet.
The following week, the cross country teams will run in their only home meet of the season, the Cougar Classic, which will be held at Imperial Park on September 28.