Returning to Corpus Christi for the Class 6A, Region IV championships is no longer just the goal for the Lehman High cross country team in 2017.
After reaching the regional round last year, Lobo cross country head coach Ramez Antoun hopes the program can improve upon that finish and potentially go even further.
While the team graduated several key cogs from last year’s squad, Antoun believes the team can build around the experience that returns.
“Last year, our motto was ‘let’s get to the beach’,” Antoun said. “Now, let’s try to get back to the beach and do something when we get there.”
One of the top priorities for 2017 will be filling two of the team’s top three spots on the boys team.
Tracy Malrey, who was the team’s top runner last season, graduated and is running at Prairie View A&M. Eric Gordillo, who was the team’s third best runner, decided not to participate after he was selected to play on an academy soccer team.
Antoun said he understands there are big holes to fill on the boys side and hopes to do so with several returning runners. One of those is junior Santos Hernandez, who Antoun said is a talented runner and is “one of the hardest working kids we have.”
Sophomore Jose Cano also returns for the Lobos. Antoun said Cano regularly outpaced Malrey for “a good chunk” of the 2016 season.
“Them being able to outpace each other, it benefitted both,” Antoun said. “They benefitted from a symbiotic relationship.”
Junior Edson Hernandez and Jesus Mesa will help the Lobo boys, as well as Joshua Torres-Whitmer, who is one of the few seniors on the group.
“What I love about this sport is there’s no opinion involved,” Antoun said. “The clock and the time will determine who our fastest guys are.”
On the girls side, Antoun said the Lobos are looking to field a varsity level team, which hasn’t been done in the last few years.
He said the girls squad has three athletes to build around, along with an influx of younger athletes who will be thrown into the fold.
“We have junior high kids with experience coming into our program for the first time since they started cross county at that level,” Antoun said.
The girls team will be centered on the nucleus of Cam Woods, Yesenia Contreras and Stephanie Quistellan.
Antoun said all three were competitive at the junior varsity level.
Lehman’s short-term focus now lies in readying for the 25-6A cross country meet in October. The Lobos’ ability to surpass the level of competition in the district, including that of Hays and Vista Ridge, was a mark of accomplishment last season, Antoun said.
“I told them it doesn’t matter what happens in the first meet, what matters is what happens in the last one, Antoun said. “Between now and [the district meet on] Oct. 12 is practice.”