On a bright, sunny – yet moderately cool – morning of October 12, the Kempner cross country teams challenged the rest of the district’s 6A schools at the UIL District 6A-20 championships, held at Kitty Hollow Park in Missouri City.
The courses – three miles for the varsity boys and girls – were flat, with plenty of long straightaways and gentle curves. The opening quarter mile, and the start of the second loop, was fairly rough with very uneven footing, but all in all the course set up nicely for some great racing and quick times.
Brandon Phegley and Stephen Slage both finished in the top 10 overall in the varsity boys race to have their tickets punched on through to the regional championships. Phegley, just a freshman, finished sixth overall in 17 minutes and 12 seconds for the three-mile race. Slage was just steps behind in 17:16 to finish eighth. Senior Matthew Anderson ran his best race of the season to come across the line in thirteenth (17:44), narrowly missing out on a regional berth.
Phegley and Slage became the first Kempner harriers to qualify for regionals since Ashton Dubroc turned the trick in 2015. Finishing sixth and eighth, they also were the top Kempner duo in the district race since Reagan Pace (third) and Austin Escobedo (ninth) led the 2013 team to a third-place finish at the district meet. Phegley’s sixth-place overall spot also was the highest a KHS varsity boy has finished at districts since Pace’s bronze medal four years ago.
The boys team finished sixth in the team scoring, with 132 points. Clements won the district title with a score of 56 points, while Ridge Point (58) and Travis (66) also earned podium spots. To demonstrate how tough placing as a team is, the Cougars sat just five points out of second position (with 27 points) after their first three runners, but lacked the depth to hang with the top teams’ fourth and fifth runners. (Cross country scoring is tabulated by totaling the individual places of each team’s top five finishers – with the lowest score winning.)
The varsity girls were led by Dua Sayeed, a junior, who finished 28th overall in 24:14 for the three-mile distance. The girls team finished sixth with a total of 161 points in a race won by Ridge Point, with a total of 39.
Junior Francis Ogbonna showed the way for the JV boys team, running 18:43 for fourth overall. Ogbonna will be expected to step up to the varsity team next year after spending this season on JV following a move from Maryland.
Freshman Bryan Lerma had a top-10 finish in the ninth grade race, covering the two-mile distance in 12:42.
The UIL Region 3 Cross Country Championships will be held at Kate Barr-Ross Park, near the campus of Sam Houston State University, on Monday, October 23. Phegley and Slage will compete as individuals in the 5K (3.1-mile) race that serves as the qualifier for the state championships. The top four teams and the top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team will earn a prized spot on the starting line at the UIL State Cross Country Championships on November 4, held every year at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.