By BRYAN URBACH
Saturday brings a fresh, new challenge for the Palestine Wildcats as they head to Neches for their next cross country meet.
Last weekend, Palestine runners Tyler Barnard and Mason Munoz finished in fourth and seventh place in the Stephen F. Austin meet. The two ran unattached from the school.
This Saturday, the Wildcats will travel to Neches, and Palestine coach John Absalom said he was proud of Barnard and Munoz for running last weekend, because it helps better prepare them for future meets.
“Mason and Tyler are runners,” Absalom said. “They’re always trying to get more miles in and cut down their times. Those two guys should be a minute within each other, and last weekend was good practice for them. Those two guys are the 1-2 punch. You want those two guys Top 10 in regionals, which is the goal for us.”
Coming into this Saturday’s meet, Absalom said he expects more and more out of his younger runners as the year goes on. The kids have more time to train, now that they are with Absalom and the program more often.
One of the younger runners who has caught Absalom’s eye in the past few weeks has been Christopher Rangel.
“You know, we have a couple of people stepping up, and it’s great for them,” Absalom said. “Christopher Rangel has been one of those kids to run better and better each week for us. He didn’t do as much summer running as he should have, but now that I have him running every day, he’s training hard. I think he’ll end up being my third guy, and that’s what I’ve been looking for.”
At the Crockett meet, Absalom said the team was too far apart and that it has gotten better since then, especially at the Palestine meet when Absalom said the kids ran much closer together than before, and he said he looks for that at Neches on Saturday.
For the girls, this weekend should be the last one without their entire roster, and Absalom said it was something to be encouraged about.
“The girls have been a work in progress,” Absalom said. “We’re young, and we haven’t had the full roster yet for various reasons. This weekend we’re probably going to be missing three varsity runners, and that’s hard on us. I’m hoping by next Friday when we go to Central, that’ll be where we have everybody healthy, and we can really see where everyone is at.
“I can’t wait to get them all in one place at the same time,” he added. “In the process of recouping, though, we have several girls starting to step up, and that is something that is great to see.”