By Kelly Morris / Special Contributor
The Ursuline cross country team defended its spot atop the state championship podium.
The Bears won their second straight title and fourth in five years at the TAPPS 6A state meet on Saturday at Paul Tyson Field in Waco.
Ursuline finished with 41 points, 20 points ahead of Houston St. Agnes (61 points). San Antonio Antonian was third with 115 points.
“This year’s title is extra special, as our main rival St. Agnes had improved quite a bit from last season and several coaches’ polls had them ranked ahead of us,” Ursuline coach Jonathan Moody said. “Fortunately, we ignored those who doubted us. The Bears continued to perform well under pressure at the highest level.”
Caroline Miller placed second individually for Ursuline with a time of 11 minutes, 55 seconds. Kate Patrick (12:16) was fifth, and Elise Welch (12:24) was seventh. Other Ursuline finishers were Madeline Fynes (13th, 12:37), Anna Miller (14th, 12:40), Eugenia Scala (17th, 12:44), and Ann Gehan (38th, 13:42).
The state course finished on a track, but Moody said his runners handled the obstacle with ease. Patience was key.
“TAPPS continues to challenge us by choosing different courses each year that are not the typical cross country course we race on during the regular season,” Moody said. “At the end of the day, the competition comes down to whose team can perform the best on whatever course and conditions present themselves. Under the steady leadership of fourth-year senior leaders like Kate Patrick, Eugenia Scala, and Ann Gehan, the rest of the team calmly approaches each race with confidence.”
The Bears ran the same seven athletes who won the state title last year. Patrick and Caroline Miller finished seventh and eighth, respectively, at state in 2015. With four of their top five runners returning next year, the Bears will head into 2017 as likely favorites. Ursuline has 14 state titles.