Sunday, December 16, 2018
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Sharyland-girls-XC-team-2018The Sharyland Lady Rattlers XC (cross country) team entered the 2018 Rio Grande Valley Meet of Champions as the odds-on favorites Saturday. Twenty minutes and 31 seconds after the starter pistol was fired, three Lady Rattlers had crossed the finish line as top 10 finishers.

While the majority of runners were still on the course, it was pretty obvious at that point in the race that Sharyland was about to claim their first Meet of Champions championship since the 2013 school year, the last year the Lady Rattlers claimed district and regional championships as well.

While a Brownsville Rivera runner took the individual championship, second and third places went to Lady Rattlers. Andrea Gallardo and Ariana Gomez, both juniors at Sharyland High, crossed the finish line three and a half seconds apart from each other as they took second and third places respectively. The third Lady Rattler to finish in the top 10 was senior Samantha Guerrero, whose time of 20:31.0 earned her 10th place.

Gallardo’s Meet of Champions time of 19:58.1 was a PR (personal record) for the 5-foot-1 ½-inch, 95 pound distance runner.

When asked what it was that allowed her to run her fastest race ever, Gallardo said, “I’ve been pushing myself for the long distances in the track workouts and that helped me do really well. Most of all, it allowed me to lower my time in the last mile, which is the hardest mile.”

While only the top five finishers’ placings on each team factor into their respective team’s placing, the seven Lady Rattlers’ runners all finished among the top 22. Gallardo credits the fact that all seven of the girls on the team are so competitive for the Lady Rattlers success this season.

“Winning this meet is such an accomplishment for us because last year we placed third,” Gallardo said. “This year we have such a good team because we all have times in the 20’s and that is what has allowed us to win these meets.”

As for Gomez, her third place finish at the Meet of Champions was instrumental in the Lady Rattlers taking the championship. While her time of 20:01.6 was a PR for her as well, she would’ve preferred to have finished ahead of Gallardo, who she has beaten in the past, if she had it her way.

“I kind of took off at the start a little behind Andrea,” Gomez said. “I figured that if I could hang on to her I’d finish in the top three. Really, I wanted to beat her but I wasn’t able to that day. I just tried to have a good mentality about the whole race by starting off the first mile on a good note and after that just doing what I do best, which is to take off.”

“We go back-and-forth a lot,” Gomez added. “In the past, the whole team has taken turns finishing first, but lately it’s been Andrea and me battling it out. It all comes out to who runs a smarter race by having a better strategy because we’re both pretty fast girls.”

As for Guerrero, her Meet of Champions time of 20:31.0 was far from her PR of 19:55 which she ran her freshman year. Now in her senior year, she’s dealing with leg pains that are not allowing her to run all-out.

“My calves have been bothering me for a while already,” Guerrero said. “It was really, really bad last year. I had to actually step out of a few meets because of it. So this year I’m being more cautious in hopes that it won’t get as bad as it did last year.”

When asked what winning the meet of Champions means to her, Guerrero said, “It means a lot. This is my last year and I love all of my teammates. I love these girls and this team. It’s amazing.”

Guerrero, who would like to continue her running career at the collegiate level, is working towards earning a scholarship which would make that possible.

In her 19th year of coaching cross-country/track, the last five as the Lady Rattlers’ head XC and track coach, Melissa Dearth has seen her team struggle since Sharyland High was split into two schools. However, winning the Meet of Champions is confirmation of the fact that the Lady Rattlers are once again at the top of the Valley’s XC heap.

“We knew we were ranked number one coming into this meet, but winning this meet makes it official,” Dearth said. “I’ve had people tell me that we’re used to winning because we’re Sharyland, but we haven’t won since the schools split. So we’re very happy that we’ve been able to rebuild to where we were before the split.”

The ranking that Dearth referred to is Athletic.net’s ranking of Sharyland and Dripping Springs as the two top XC girls teams in Class 5A Region IV.

Other top finishing teams at the Meet of Champions were the Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks and the Pioneer boys, who both finished in second place.