For the 18th year in a row, the girls’ cross country team from Brazos High School will compete at the regional championship meet after taking second at the District 24-3A Championship earlier this week in Wallis.
Three Cougarettes finished in the top 10 and earned all-district honors – Maddie Kneip, Makinzy Kneip and Denise Hauer – to help keep the team score low enough to ward off a strong showing from Van Vleck and Boling, who both came within three points of Brazos in the team competition.
Junior Makinzy Kneip qualified individually for her third consecutive regional championship, senior Maddie Kneip – who missed the end of last year due to injury – secured her second individual qualification while Hauer, a freshman, punched her first individual ticket to the regional meet.
The next three Cougarettes finished in the top 30 to help keep the regional streak alive: Gracie Arteaga in 20th, Amy Dunegan in 21st and Valentina Ibarra in 28th.
On the boys’ side, senior Zachary Cortez was recognized with all-district distinction for his top-10 finish which helped him qualify for his fourth consecutive regional championship appearance individually.
Cortez will be the lone Brazos representative at the regional meet, however, as there were 10 finishers in between him and his closest teammate, Alfredo Ochoa. Although the other four Cougars finished within eight spots of Ochoa, Boling and East Bernard stacked the top 10 to punch their team tickets.
Although he knew who he had returning from teams that won the district championships last year, Brazos head cross country coach Eric Stuessel was unsure of the shape the runners were coming back in following the extended offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I've communicated with them via email and texts and remind messages, but I haven't personally seen any of the students since the Friday before spring break,” Stuessel said in late July. “They had work outs from me since then, but I don't really know how well they're doing. In normal years in the past we take a couple weeks off after track and then towards the end of school we start kind of gearing back up into June, July and August, we work out in the summer all the time and then I see them at least once a week in person.”
Stuessel relied on the workout regimen he’s used as Brazos’ head man for two and a half decades and knew the results would come if things happened smoothly.
“I think once we come back together – if we’re able to stay in school – the training program I have been using for many years, we’ll just go back into that and it takes us about three, three and a half months to get where we need to be at the end of the season,” he said preseason.
Before he came to Wallis, Stuessel spent nine years coaching in Huntsville ISD and he will return to that area for the Region III Championship at Kate Barr Ross Park for the Nov. 9 meet.