The Batesburg-Leesville girls cross-country team just missed out on a Region 2-AA championship last week as they fell to Fox Creek 36-45.
B-L did beat out Abbeville (80), Ninety Six (85) and Saluda (100) on the girls’ side. The boys’ team placed third out of the five teams with Ninety Six (23) dominating and Fox Creek (34) second. B-L’s 97 points edged Saluda with 105 and Abbeville with 141.
The Panthers are off this week as they prepare for the State Qualifiers at Camden on Nov. 9.
On the girls’ side, B-L had three runners qualify for All-Region by finishing in the top eight spots. Cheyenne Lee paced the Panthers with a fourth place finish with a time of 25:05, while Mina Shull finished seventh at 25:39 and Liza Rios was a second behind her at 25:40.
Katie Beth Covington finished 11th overall with a time of 26:07 with Olivia Derrick next (15th, 26:19) to round out the scorers. Hailey Fulmer recorded a time of 27:37, while Carley Muilenburg had a time of 31:06. Maria Reyes posted a time of 32:11, while Nicole DeLuna at 33:22 and Mia Hernandez coming in at 35:13.
On the boys’ side, Brayan Villaseca-Torres posted a time of 20:46 to finish 15th overall with Eric Gambrell coming in 23rd at 22:54. The Panthers’ next three runners rounded out the scoring in quick succession as Jorge Torres (32, 23:45), Taylor Cook (33, 23:54) and Hansel Discua (34, 23:58) helped secure third place overall.
Joseph Jimenez, Liam Truitt and Corey Weed all came in a group as well with times of 24:23, 24:24 and 24:31. Rounding out the Panther runners were Sawyer Shull at 25:43, Cayden Bundrick at 26:06 and Alijah Hutchinson at 30:33.
“We have a very young team of boys,” said head coach Kim Hendrix. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to see our improvements in the rankings but can see it in their times. They are very cohesive and have a ton of positive energy. Overall for the team, every year is great for B-L Cross-Country, but this year has been exceptional in team sportsmanship. We have had uniform ceremony, giving day ceremony, morning run pancake breakfast, and we incorporate lots of team-building games into our activities. It is obvious they care for each other at practice. I am very pleased that our town is developing a running community. We have got to keep building our team.”
The Panthers placed three girl runners on the All-Region team and they had a few comments. All three will be back next season, and all will play soccer in the spring with Lee and Rios running track as well.
An average week of practice see the runners put in about eight hours of running and at least 25 miles plus whatever running they do on their own.
Over the past four seasons, the Panthers have twice won the region and twice finished second. Asked what the secret to that success might be, Lee said, “Honestly, just building each other up. I have never had anyone try to bring me down or discourage me in any way. Mina and Liza are honestly the most inspirational people. They always encourage me and push me to do my best.”
Rios said, “You just have to try if you really want it. We are definitely a team, as all of my teammates encourage and are just there for each other.”
Shull added, “I think the key is the support and motivation that we give each other,” while noting that Liza and former B-L runner Justin Castro are two of the best at pushing her to do her best.
As the Panthers look ahead to qualifiers, all three stated that their goal is to set a personal best and for the team to qualify for the state meet Nov. 16. “My goal has always been the same, to beat myself,” Lee said, “because I feel my only competition should be me. My goals are for the team to progress as much as we can, and I want to do the best I can.”
Story by Jay Hendrix / Published October 31, 2019