After the first full week of practice for some schools, the University Interscholastic League adjusted the cross country season by moving postseason dates forward by two weeks.
The UIL used the same staggered start as they did for the football season where Classes 4A and below can start meets on Aug. 17 while Classes 5A and 6A can’t start meets until Sept. 7 but all state championships will be held the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving according to the latest announcement released the morning of Aug. 7.
Sealy head cross country coach Anthony Branch said last Friday that the teams’ first meet will be Aug. 22 but the rest of the schedule had yet to be completely finalized.
“The kids who have put in the work, I feel pretty good with where they’re at. Most varsity kids did some running so I’m pretty pleased with that,” Branch said in an Aug. 7 phone interview. “This week we didn’t know when we were going to have our first meet because of all the schedule changes. We had a schedule set then I had to go back and do a lot of adjustments.”
The final puzzle piece to locking in the schedule, Branch said, will be when exactly the District 24-4A championship will be although the new UIL schedule says district certification must be completed by Oct. 31. After that, regional meets will be held Nov. 9 and 10 before the top runners advance to the state meet Nov. 23 and 24.
The updated guidelines also adjusted how many runners and teams will qualify for each postseason meet.
“At district, it used to be the top three teams and top 10 individuals (advanced),” Branch explained. “That changed so it is now the top two teams and the top 10 individuals at district (move on). At regionals, to go to state it’s the top three teams and top 10 individuals from a non-advancing team. Basically, they eliminated one team extra going to regionals and another team going to state, as well as some kids.”
Branch said despite the schedule adjustments, he still feels as though there could be some Sealy Tiger representatives at the last meet of the season.
“I feel very good about the ones that have a chance to get out, or maybe make the state meet. I think there’s some kids that have a shot because they put in the work – really put in some work this summer,” Branch said. “I think I echo this from a lot of other coaches in the state where we’re just glad to get to compete and to be back at it because this is what we do; we all got this taken away from us. Now we all get to have the opportunity to do it again and get after it.”
The Tiger distance runners got after it last week in their first official practices of the season and now have a landing point for when the first interscholastic competition will be.
“This week we mainly focused on getting some long runs in, did a tempo run, we did a time trial just to see where everybody is. They’re ready to start working on the other stuff,” Branch said. “We’re starting to get into racing season and now we’ve got two weeks to start working on that. … I know the kids are ready; it’s been a long summer, been a long time since they’ve been able to compete, so it’ll be awesome to get out there on Aug. 22.”
From there, the teams will fine-tune their skills in practice to continually get better as the season goes along, or so goes the mantra of the team this year.
“We came up with our motto for this year: P.U.S.H., Persist Until Success Happens,” Branch said. “We obviously want to be successful and have a chance to win district championships, that’s always the goal you want to achieve, but we also know that’s not the only thing that we’re trying to achieve. We’re trying to achieve other things and get more out of it than just getting a medal. We want a more rewarding experience out of this, so I think they definitely received the message.”