Although the boys’ varsity cross country team did not advance from the regional meet, Head Coach Anthony Branch noted the disappointment from his runners was a good sign.
“Although this isn’t going to damper what we accomplished this year, the boys expected to be up there,” Coach Branch said of his squad that will lose but one participant to graduation.
The Tigers aimed at that top-12 finish to advance to the State Meet but fell just 39 points shy in a very tough region.
“They were focused, they did all the right things and prepared both physically and mentally but we needed some other things to happen and they just didn’t,” Branch mentioned.
But he added that the lingering note of displeasure will only look to push this young group of runners that Branch is sure to see running around campus while he shifts gears into basketball season.
Although he cannot be everywhere at once and he is leaving faith in his rising senior, James Gassiott, who made sure to confirm with Coach Branch, “I’ll get ‘em running,” this offseason.
“I’m very excited for the future,” Branch added. “We want to be standing on that podium next year though.”
What the team was able to get done over the course of the season, however, was set the foundation for success for years to come.
That was personified by Sealy’s top two finishers in sophomore Vladimir Hernandez and freshman Xavier Olvera.
Not only that, but the bond that they created, Branch noted, will be one that will also carry with these young men for years to come.
“The team-building and the togetherness that the boys built this year was amazing to see,” Branch stated.
The eldest statesman, Nahol Ahmed, will be the only departure from the 2018 version of Tiger Cross Country that also has a future that’s shining brightly on the girls’ side.
Sophomore Madison Manak, who two years ago could barely run around the school, has now broken 14 twice and even said herself, “I want to be a state qualifier.”
The overall message from Coach Branch was that notion that they don’t want to run at Regionals just to say they were there. They, along with Manak, want to continue to progress and the initial steps in that direction were made most emphatically this fall.
“We’ve got great support from our school district and I’ve been getting texts and tweets from teachers and friends asking how we did and it’s amazing to see that recognition for these kids who have been working so hard,” Branch finished.