SHINER — Shiner went to the Region IV-2A regional cross country meet determined to earn a berth to the state meet.
But the Lady Comanches weren’t expecting to return from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with a regional championship trophy.
“We were looking to advance,” said Shiner coach Michelle Winkenwerder. “We knew we had a shot, but you always give credit where credit is due. Mason and San Saba have great programs and have been there for years. When I looked up at the board and saw we were No. 1, it was an amazing moment.”
Shiner captured the team title with 53 points and advanced to the state meet as a team for the first time since 1995.
The Lady Comanches will head to Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock for the UIL State Cross Country Championships.
“We were expecting to qualify for state, but we never expected to win the regional meet,” said junior Jocelyn Moreno. “We all just did an amazing job and just motivated each other throughout the way and helped each other.”
Winkenwerder attributes the team’s success this season to its training regimen and unselfishness.
Unlike many cross country teams, the Lady Comanches practice during athletic period and again in the afternoon.
As a result, they were better prepared for the 90-degree temperatures at the regional meet.
“We’re always practicing in the heat,” Winkenwerder said. “We hosted eight meets and three big high school meets and I always put them in the heat of the day. The heat and running when we ran at all the meets really helped us out.”
But Winkenwerder gives most of the credit to the way the two freshmen, one sophomore, four juniors and two seniors on the team have bonded and supported each other.
Shiner coach Michelle Winkenwerder on the Lady Comanches winning the regional meet and qualifying for the @uiltexas State Cross Country Championships as a team for the first time since 1995. pic.twitter.com/bNxvp6bQ4S— Mike Forman (@mikeforman21) November 19, 2020
“We’ve dealt with COVID and we’ve dealt with injuries as a team,” Winkenwerder said. “But I’ve never seen a group of girls get behind their teammates and cheer them on and want them to come back and want them to get better because that’s the strength of the team.
“There’s no selfishness with this team – none whatsoever,” she added. “Last week, we had a runoff to decide who was going to be the top seven at the regional meet. They paced their fellow teammates to make sure they were doing the best they could do.”
Freshman Rylee Vancura placed fifth and senior Mari Grosenbacher was 10th at the regional meet to earn medals.
But Shiner’s overall depth helped secure the team title, as sophomore Riley Rainosek finished 15th, and freshman Hayliegh Burns placed 29th.
“I really like the people I get to run with,” Grosenbacher said. “I’ve made some of my best friends from the sport. I’ve gone to state as an individual. It’s so great to have everyone go and everyone enjoy the experience.”
Shiner has a chance to make a memorable season even better by placing in the top three at the state meet.
“The race has to be run,” Winkenwerder said. “Not only are you going as a team for the first time in a long time, but you have an opportunity to bring home some hardware. That makes it even more special.”
UIL State Cross Country State Championships
Following are area qualifiers for the UIL State Cross Country Championships held at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock. Classes 1A, 3A and 5A will compete Monday, and Classes 2A, 4A and 6A will compete Tuesday.
Moulton: Estafania Colchado, Kamryn Darilek, Kaitlyn Gallegos, Grace Mezik, Trista Michna, Emily Perry, Kaylee Trejo.
Shiner: Hayleigh Burns, Megan Epley, Mari Grosenbacher, Katie Machert, Jocelyn Moreno, Hannah Pustka, Riley Rainosek, Bailey Smith, Rylee Vancura.
Yoakum: Korina Anzualda, Brooklin Berger, Kylah Fishbeck, Gisela Martinez, Jenna McKee, Bailey Petras, Sierra Rivera.
Lupe Bucio, Kenedy; Taylor Limbaugh, Schulenburg.
Olivia Etzler, Hallettsville; Emilee Schneider, Van Vleck.
Jada Johnson, Beeville; Phoebe Huang, Calhoun; Emme O’Donnell, Calhoun.
Edgar Mendiola, Moulton; Deric Torres, Nordheim.
Kash Brown, Falls City; Oscar Guerrero, Flatonia; Antonio Martinez, Louise.
Johnathan Garcia, Industrial; Aaron Wilfert, Industrial.