Cross country runners — especially those who hail from the Rio Grande Valley — are truly a different breed of athlete.
While other runners across the nation may be complaining about running up hills facing some cold weather, Valley runners may feel like they’re getting a break when the temperatures reach only 100.
Their mental strength is equal to the legs that keep them going mile after mile with a heat index that will reach 115 degrees or more and a wind that feels like a hair dryer in the face.
Below are the nominations for boys and girls cross country runner of the year. Winners will be announced June 13 at the All Valley Sports Awards Banquet, co-presented by DHR Health and Lone Star National Bank. Runners are named in alphabetical order.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Cruz Gomez, PSJA Memorial, senior: Gomez qualified for state for the fourth year in a row, this time in Class 5A with an even tougher field. The Wolverines standout and future Longhorns athlete set his personal best at 14:48.7 while winning the McNeil Invitational, his first sub-15 minute 5K. He finished fourth at the UIL state meet. He was named Class 5A all-state.
Victor Leos, Brownsville IDEA Frontier, sophomore: Leos captured a District 32-3A cross country team and individual championship. At the Region IV-3A meet, Leos led his team to a fourth-place finish, qualifying it to the state meet. Leos placed highest on the team, finishing 11th. At state, Leos finished 27th individually, lifting his team to 13th-place finish.
Evan Williams, McAllen Memorial, senior: Evan and his twin brother, Trevor, continued to leave their mark around the Valley as a duo of talent. Evan finished second at the District 30-6A meet but finished with the fastest 6A time at the UIL state meet, earning 12th place with his personal record of 15:18.8. He will attend and compete for the University of Texas in the fall.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Charlotte Beck, McAllen High, freshman: Beck burst onto the scene as a freshman in a big way. Her times continued to drop and by season’s end she had earned a District 30-6A championship at 19:57.4
Andrea de la Rosa, Brownsville Rivera, senior: De la Rosa won eight cross country meets this season, including the District 32-6A meet for the third time in her high school career. She followed that up with a third-place finish at the Region IV-6A meet, qualifying for the state meet, where she finished 20th.
Bailey Villalon, La Joya Palmview, senior: Villalon held off tough competition to claim her first cross country district championship at 19:59.3 in her first season in Class 5A and her first year as the top distance runner for the prestigious Lady Lobos program. She competed at the UIL state meet for the second time.
The banquet, hosted by RGVSports.com and AIM Media Texas in conjunction with the RGV Sports Hall of Fame, will see 33 awards presented to athletes, coaches and teams across all 12 UIL sports. The prestigious Tom Landry Award of Excellence will honor a student athlete for outstanding achievements.
The banquet, which will run approximately 6 to 8 p.m., returns to Mario’s for a second consecutive year. The venue has a seating capacity of more than 500 people.
Tickets will be on sale soon at a cost of $40 per person. For sponsorship opportunities, call Marcia Kitten at (956) 683-4463 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.