HURST, Texas — Waxahachie High School's boys and girls placed first and ninth among 23 teams, respectively, after the final gun shot rang during last Thursday's Flyin' Hawk Early Bird Invitational.

Three Indian male runners finished in the top five and five in the top 10 and three female runners finished in the top 40 of 207 total runners.

The annual race featured schools from the University Interscholastic League 3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A classifications, including Ellis County teams from Kaufman, Midlothian Heritage and Red Oak High Schools.

BOYS FIND STRIDE

Waxahachie's veteran leaders set the tone, beating runners from higher classifications like Plano Senior High's Andrew Baird and trumping the home field advantage of Birdville High School's Caleb Smay.

They also outran district competitor Eric Espinal from Mansfield Summit.

Senior Brandon Gilliland and sophomore Brandon Moore crossed the line first and second with respective 11:31.29 and 11:41.67 finishes in the 3,200-meter run. Sophomore Sam Molina's 12:17.61 earned him fifth place.

Baird's 11:56.76 claimed third, and Smay's 11:57.12 took fourth.

"Brandon Gilliand, Brandon Moore, Kirby Chandler, Sam Molina and Rafael Aguilar all finished in the top 7," said Head Boys' XC Coach Edward De La Cruz. "They stayed close to each other all race. They all had a mindset to stay together and push each other. It’s exactly what makes for a great team."

Senior Rafael Aguilar finished the race in 12:21.68 and sixth place, beating Kaufman's Edwin Olvera (12:38.97) by 17 seconds.

Junior Joshua Manning (13:44.44) and sophomore Will Deen (13:48.82) finished just outside the top 50 at No. 54 and No. 58.

"I also feel Josh Manning is starting to inch closer and closer to being with the top 5, I’m really proud of how hard he has been working," De La Cruz continued. "Andrew Galbraith, Ezekiel Mirabal, Eric Dyke and Josh Kane have been making a lot of progress and I know they will be big for the future. Landon Jones and Jayce Glenn has been working really hard and have been showing a lot of fight."

'GIRL-POWERED' FRESHMEN TAKE STAGE

On Birdville ISD's cross country grounds, first-year female distance runners dominated the Invitational's numbers game.

Nine girls from five different ISD's placed 25th or higher. Five came from Ellis County.

Emma Curry made her varsity debut with a 14:17.55, placing 23 behind girls from Alvarado, Kaufman, Midlothian Heritage, and invitational winner Ashlyn Hillyard from Plano Senior High School. She was one of eight freshmen to break into the top 25.

Junior Emily Mackel (14:22.58) was steps behind her at No. 27.

"The girls did well after finishing ninth out of 29 teams. It's hard to ask for a better start," said Todd Alexander, Waxahachie's head girls' cross country coach. "We had four top finishers — Emily Mackel, Alyson Moore and Brooke Trull — and our JV finished 14th overall. Bella Curiel was also a top finisher after medaling in the JV division."

Kaufman placed the third most athletes of any school within the leading 25-girl group, which was behind only Dallas Ursuline and Northwest Nelson High Schools.

Freshmen Alondra Campa (14:11.49) and Ellie Galan (14:13.30) finished No. 20 and No. 21. Taylor Sandberg (14:22.07) finished No. 25, sandwiched in between Curry and Mackel.

Midlothian Heritage's Renee Elliott and Rachel Allen, both freshmen, finished 17th and 18th with 14:07.12 and 14:10.66 individual finishes.

Waxahachie freshman Alyson Moore rounded out the top 40 at No. 38, running 14:40.20 and outpacing Northwest Nelson senior Lauren Cebulske and Irving MacArthur junior Carmen Guerrero.

UP NEXT

Both teams will compete in Saturday's Waxahachie Woodhouse Invitational, slated for an 8 a.m. start before striding into the meat of their season and into Dallas Baptist University, Spartan, Garey Horner and SAGU Lions Invitationals in September.

"I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited of the future of the program. I am really proud of their hard work," De La Cruz said. "I think they’re ready to compete at the Waxahachie Woodhouse Invitational. I know they will give it everything they have and push to win it."

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Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.