HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY: Andrews runners look to make the most at state this weekend

The Andrews boys cross country team returns to the state championship meet for the first time since 2020.

The Mustangs are hoping that this is the start of another long streak of consecutive state championship appearances as a team.

The team will run at 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Old Settlers’ Park in Round Rock in this year’s state meet.

In 2021, the Mustangs came up short of making it to state as a team, ending their 10-year run of consecutive state qualifications.

Now, the team finally has a chance to start a new streak.

Andrews qualified for state after placing fourth in the Region I championships back on Oct. 24 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

The team finished with 134 points to clinch a spot at the state meet.

“It was a great feeling,” Andrews head coach Wade Floyd said. “They ran so well. They get to start a new streak. Up to the year 2020, we had a boys team qualify for state 10 years in a row. In 2021, we saw that streak end. When the streak ended, I told the team that when one streak ends, it gives us a chance to start a new one. With this group that we have, we get to finally start that new streak. Hopefully, we can build it up like the last one.”

It wasn’t easy as the Mustangs had to survive a difficult regional meet which included Canyon (which won the meet with 20 points), San Elizario (which was second with 63) and Dumas, which took third with 118 points.

Andrews finished with 71 points ahead of fifth place Sanger to take the final team qualifying spot for state.

Junior Gavin Ortiz led the Mustangs on the three-mile course, finishing 14th in a time of 17 minutes and 22.90 seconds.

Senior Wyatt Everts was the second Andrews runner to cross the finish line, taking 21st in 17:33.

Freshman Luke Smiley was 31st in 17:57.40 while sophomore Aaron Jiminez was 36th in a time of 18.00.10.

“The biggest thing that I saw at regionals was that we ran as such a tight-knit group,” Floyd said. “When you can put six guys together in less than 50 seconds from each other, you’re going to be in a lot of competitions and be very successful. We’ve been preaching our gap time to our 1-5 runners and we knew that we were capable of doing it and it came together at the regional meet. That’s really what kept us in the position to qualify. We had a ton of teams in our region that were ranked. That’s why it’s called the region of doom. For us to come out as one of the top four teams was a great feeling to have.”

The Mustangs have won three meets this year including the District 3-4A championship on Oct. 9 in Andrews in which the Mustangs finished with a dominating low score of 17 points.

The Mustangs also took first in meets at Burkburnett and Big Spring this fall.

Floyd said one of the biggest strengths for this year’s squad is the fact that if one of their runners didn’t have a good race, there are four or five runners who can step up.

“This year, alone, in the seven meets we’ve competed in, we’ve had three different guys be our number one runner,” Floyd said. “We’ve had five different guys be our number two runner. They’re very interchangeable. We don’t need A-plus races. All we do is shoot for a B-plus race and if someone has an A-plus race, it’s just a benefit.”

For Ortiz and Everts, it’s a return to state as the two runners qualified as individuals last year.

This year, they’re eager to compete as a team.

“We’re all really excited,” Ortiz said. “I was the first one to run up to coach Floyd (at regionals) and ask if we made it as a team and he was all excited and said yes, we’re taking a bus to state. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a fun thing to experience.”

Everts echoed those thoughts.

“It’s awesome,” Everts said. “That’s been the goal all year long. We’ve been trying to get the team to state. It feels awesome to get there, but we’re not finished. We still have one more meet to go and get the job done.”

Andrews runner Mikylee Morrison poses for a photo after qualifying for state as an individual at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock on Oct. 24. Courtesy photo

On the girls’ side, sophomore Mikylee Morrison returns to the state meet as an individual for the second consecutive year.

She finished 13that regionals in the two-mile race in a time of 12:54.40.

Morrison finished last year’s state run in 47th place with a time of 12:44.6, but she was disappointed with her performance a year ago.

“I’m excited to be back,” Morrison said. “Last year, when I crossed the finish line at state, I felt like I had more in the tank. I was disappointed. I felt like I could’ve done another mile.”

Still only an underclassman, Floyd is excited to have her back for two more years for the Lady Mustangs.

“Man, she’s such a competitor,” Floyd said of Morrison. “She wants to work hard. She pushes her team. She makes sure they’re getting the mileage and the workout like they’re supposed to. Her desire to succeed in whatever sport she does … as a freshman, not only was she a state qualifier but she was a varsity basketball player for us and a district champion as a freshman in the mile and two mile and 800 for us. She’s a talented young lady and has the work ethic of a seasoned veteran.”

The Class 4A girls race will start at 11:40 a.m. Saturday.