Cougarettes, Cortez heading back to state

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Brazos’ girls’ cross country team made the most of their 16th consecutive trip to the regional meet and punched a ticket to the state championships this weekend with a second overall finish in the team competition.

Out of 22 teams, the Cougarettes trailed only San Saba and had a pair of runners finish in the top 10 individually to earn All-Region honors and power the squad to a fourth trip to states in the last seven years (2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019).

On top of that, Zachary Cortez once again qualified individually to represent Brazos’ boys’ squad at the top meet in the state for the second year in a row under head coach Eric Stuessel who is in his 24th year at the helm of the program.

Over the last 21 years of Stuessel’s tenure, he’s had either an individual runner or a whole team qualify for the state championships 19 times and the 2019 version will be held this Saturday, Nov. 9, at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

The Garcia sisters powered the Cougarettes by finishing back-to-back in seventh (Esmeralda) and eighth (Rubi) with Makinzy Kneip (14th) and Gracie Arteaga (18th) not far behind to keep the scores low. Those finishes helped Brazos take a 50-point lead over third-place Mason and only trailed first-place San Saba by 38 points.

On the boys’ side, Cortez grabbed 10th overall out of 151 runners and earned himself All-Region honors with his time of 17:26. After him were Brayden Hanzelka (35th), Kaden Kneip (48th) and Alfredo Ochoa (56th) in the top 60 to push the team total to 190 which was good enough for seventh, right behind Holland’s total of 189.

Cortez will run against the best runners in Class 2A this Saturday, Nov. 9, at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock with a 10:10 a.m. start time.

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