PALESTINE – The Palestine High School Wildcat cross country team will begin their 2019 season with a meet at Union Hill today. The boys' squad will be eager to build their case for repeating as district and regional champions while staking a claim for a state title. The Lady Cats will run at Glade water with an 8 a.m. start time. Additionally, the Lady Cat runners will look to improve on their regional qualifying season.
There will be around 30 teams competing at the event in Union Hill and Palestine will deploy eleven runners at the event. Four more than the typical amount teams send out. Lizardo Lemus, Tony Garcia, Raul Ramirez, Jonathan Sanchez, Luis Rangel, Michael Guzman, Cristian Guzman, Garrett Bowden, Luis Castillo, Michael Chaidez and Andy Garcia will be the featured runners for the Wildcats.
The top seven performers for Palestine will solidify their spots on varsity heading into their next meet at Stephen F. Austin, but Head Coach John Absalom noted the roster is fluid. Varsity spots can change. It's a good problem to have as injuries to key runners a few years ago nearly cost the Wildcats a shot at repeating as district champions.
An excess of runners fighting for a concrete number of spots helps breed competition within the team. The focus tomorrow is to produce the best competitors moving forward; not the overall team placement.
“I'm excited to see who rises to the top,” Absalom said. “You can train all you want, but the true athlete comes out once the races start.”
Luis Rangel and Michael Guzman appear to be the leaders of an accomplishment Palestine cross country team. Rangel finished top-13 in the state last year and has solidified himself as one of the top runners in the state.
Creating competition at these spots helps to consistently keep these runners focused. Just because you've been allocated to junior varsity does not mean you will remain there for the duration of the season. They're motivated to be a part of a regional championship team and “it keeps them engaged.”
Palestine will compete against 5A and 6A schools this weekend for preparation for the regional and state meets. It's something Coach Absalom remains consistent in with all his runners. Just as Palestine's top runners compete against bigger schools, their younger runners compete against their varsity runners.
The goal is to get his team comfortable against tougher competition. If they settle in against that type of speed now they won't be out of their element once regionals come around.
A few runners to watch this year will be Michael Chaidez and Garrett Bowden. Chaidez was a transfer student has begun to come into his own over the past year. Bowden is coming off of an injury that affected his season last year. He's worked over the summer to get back to form and is hoping for a bounceback 2019 campaign.
Palestine has a pair of twins to keep an eye this year in freshmen Tony and Andy Garcia.
Palestine is set to run at 8 a.m.