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CROSS COUNTRY: Titan history: Smith wins Memorial’s first district XC crown

District 21-5A meet

Blake Mortera of Nederland follows the trail during the District 21-5A boys cross country race Tuesday morning in Vidor. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Izzy Macha of Nederland sprints to a runner-up finish in the District 21-5A girls race Tuesday in Vidor. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Memorial’s second-place cross country team in District 21-5A: Front from left, Daphine Nguyen and Julia Sion; back from left, Darlene Nguyen, Ny’Reonna Smith, Bryanna Stevenson, Anyia Duhon and Denisha Anderson. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Ny’Reonna Smith of Memorial sprints down the homestretch to win the District 21-5A individual cross country championship Tuesday morning at Claiborne West Park in Vidor. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

VIDOR — Ny’Reonna Smith delivered a spirit-filled run Tuesday and, in turn, gave Memorial its first district cross country championship since the school opened in 2002.

“The run was kind of heavy today,” Smith said. “I didn’t feel like myself. I could tell the spirit of God was upon me, but I just continued to run. I just used all the things He showed me. I continued to know that I can all things through Christ, who strengthens me. It was upon my spirit today the whole time I ran. So, I was determined to never stop, and God was just upon me. I had no fear.”

The senior finished almost 30 seconds ahead of the runner-up, a Nederland freshman, to earn the historic individual title in District 21-5A on Tuesday morning at Claiborne West Park. Smith’s run led Memorial to a runner-up finish in team standings for the second year in a row.

“She decided in June she was going to be the district champion,” Memorial coach Sandra Bradford said. “She put the work in, and there are the results. She never wavered from it. … I’m proud of her and I’m proud of the support she had around her. She really worked hard and dropped a lot of time.”

Smith ran the 5,000-meter course in 21 minutes, 28 seconds, finishing 28.8 seconds ahead of Nederland freshman Isabella “Izzy” Macha.

Nederland took home the boys individual title in 21-5A, as junior Blake Mortera (17:54.5) ran one of two sub-18 minute times of the day for the 5K course. (Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s Eli Peveto, the 22-4A champion, had the fastest time at 17:20.6.)

Mortera, who like Smith was an individual runner-up a year ago in District 22-5A, had to take on a muddy course that had its share of hazards in the form of tree trunks. He tweaked an ankle stumbling on a pothole with about 800 meters left in Lumberton last year.

“I really just watched for it and zoned it out,” Mortera said. “I looked around to see how far I’ve left, and the wind was a really good factor because we have a storm rolling through, and I won.”

Hardly anyone challenged Mortera from the time he pulled ahead early on. He was 11.2 seconds ahead of runner-up Alan Catana of Cleveland.

An outstanding streak for the Bulldogs, however, came to an end as well. Their 13-year streak of district boys team championships was snapped with a third-place finish, as Barbers Hill placed five runners in the top 10 to easily claim the top trophy.

Still, there was no sign of disappointment from Nederland, which placed high enough to qualify for the Oct. 16 meet at Sam Houston State University’s Kate Barr-Ross Park.

“Earning the trip to regionals, I think this year, is almost more special than any year in the past in our district because of the level of competition,” Bulldogs coach Tommy Oleksy said.

Nederland, Memorial, PNG and Vidor were all moved from 22-5A to 21-5A for the start of this school year as a result of the February UIL realignment.

Barbers Hill won the 21-5A girls team title handily with 49 points, placing three in the top 10. Bryanna Stevenson of Memorial came in seventh and Anna Licatino of Port Neches-Groves was 10th.

“We knew Barbers Hill and Dayton are two strong cross country schools,” Bradford said. “So, we told the girls, you know what, if you want to work as a team, we can do some wonderful things.”

Kaylen Smith’s victorious run in the 22-4A girls’ 3,200-meter run helped Bridge City take the team championship with 39 points. Macie Gauthier of Hamshire-Fannett and Carla Rubio of Bridge City took the second and third positions.

Lumberton was second in team standings with 44, and Hamshire-Fannett came in third with 51.

Silsbee won the 22-4A boys team title with 44 points, followed by Bridge City (65) and Hamshire-Fannett (81).

Macha said she did not run all summer but committed to cross country just before the start of the school year after some convincing from her father.

“He’s good at long distance, and I used to run with him, and that made me start liking it,” Macha said.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews



District cross country results

(Top 10 individuals, listed only, and top three teams advance to regional meet)

22-4A girls (3,200 meters)

Team — 1. Bridge City 39, 2. Lumberton 44, 3. Hamshire-Fannett 51, 4. Silsbee 91

Individual — 1. Kaylen Smith, Bridge City, 13:02.3; 2. Macie Gauthier, Hamshire-Fannett, 13:47.9; 3. Carla Rubio, Bridge City, 14:07.0; 4. Abigayl Goodman, Lumberton, 14:10.7; 5. Gracie Cilchriest, Silsbee, 14:14.3; 6. Robyn Courmier, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, 14:27.6; 7. Brooklin Sheffield, Bridge City, 14:29.7; 8. Hannah Ackley, Hamshire-Fannett, 14:36.7; 9. Mikenna Brown, Lumberton, 14:52.7; 10. Erin Talley, Lumberton, 15:00.3

22-4A boys (5,000 meters)

Team — 1. Silsbee 44, 2. Bridge City 65, 3. Hamshire-Fannett 81, 4. LCM 84, 5. Lumberton 130, 6. Hardin-Jefferson 135, 7. West Orange-Stark 154

Individual — 1. Eli Peveto, LCM, 17:20.6; 2. David Wright, Silsbee, 18:09.9; 3. Caden Shaw, Bridge City, 18:14.9; 4. Rob Saunders, Hardin-Jefferson, 18:43.5; 5. Sandro Lozano, Hamshire-Fannett, 18:57.8; 6. Trevor Turner, LCM, 19:05.9; 7. Holden Cravy, Silsbee, 19:09.7; 8. Rueben Hatton, Silsbee, 19:11.4; 9. Jordan Stoute, Lumberton, 19:15.3; 10. Dylan Wright, Silsbee, 19:20.3

21-5A girls (5,000 meters)

Team — 1. Barbers Hill 49, 2. Memorial 80, 3. Dayton 85, 4. Nederland 91, 5. PNG 92, 6. Cleveland 97

Individual — 1. Ny’Reonna Smith, Memorial, 21:28.0; 2. Izzy Macha, Nederland, 21:56.8; 3. Alexis Galaviz, Barbers Hill, 22:02.3; 4. Macdal Facundo, Cleveland, 22:27.4; 5. Anali Torres, Dayton, 22:37.3; 6. Leilani Galvan, Barbers Hill, 22:45.6; 7. Bryanna Stevenson, Memorial, 22:51.8; 8. Grace Mathis, Barbers Hill, 22:55.0; 9. Alyssa Silva, Cleveland, 23;03.0; 10. Anna Licatino, PNG, 23:07.0

21-5A boys (5,000 meters)

Team — 1. Barbers Hill 29, 2. Dayton 49, 3. Nederland 85, 4. PNG 103, 5. Cleveland 111

Individual — 1. Blake Mortera, Nederland, 17:54.5; 2. Alan Catana, Cleveland, 18:05.7; 3. Caleb Whampler, Barbers Hill, 18:06.7; 4. Jesse Parrino, Dayton,18:13.1; 5. Kai Reed, Vidor, 18:36.9; 6. Ashton Fagala, Barbers Hill, 18:42.4; 7. Devin Figueroa, Barbers Hill, 18:46.8; 8. Logan Salazar, Barbers Hill, 18:47.6; 9. Jake Gonzales, Barbers Hill, 19:02.6; 10. Adan Sanchez, Dayton, 19:05.8


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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