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Williamstown girls seek fourth straight state title

WILLIAMSTOWN — As the leaves change and the weather gets colder, there’s one more constant in Williamstown each fall season. The cross country teams gear up for a hotly-contested homestretch. This year, both boys and girls sides are making the trip to Ona in the pursuit of Class A gold. The girls, led by a strong veteran core, are in the running for a fourth consecutive state crown, as all seven team qualifiers finished inside the top ten at the regional meet in Mineral Wells. During a practice Monday, the girls ran in a pack as a team, and they were interviewed as a team. Answers consisted of that same energy, and it gives head coach Larry Cassady confidence in his squad’s chances on Saturday.

“We can this time of year ‘Triple Crown Season,'” Cassady said following Thursday’s regional victory. “You win the LKC, you win the regional and then the state title. That’s the triple crown, and they don’t take it lightly. They know what’s expected of them.”

While the boys’ side is full of younger runners, the girls’ group has a lot more experience at this level. Both groups took different paths to get here, but they are both equally built for this big stage and the immediate future. The breakdown by class for the girls sees a majority of upperclassmen running over the weekend, while four out of the seven boys are sophomores. The future is bright, according to boys’ coach Cliff Taylor, as it’s the first time in his four years he gets to take WHS to the state meet.

“They believe in what they’re doing, and you’ve got to pat somebody on the back once in a while, and you’ve got to be hard on them once in a while,” Taylor said. “We don’t really have to be hard on these guys, because they do exactly what you ask. They were really excited about (winning the region). It’s the first time they’ve won that since I’ve been here. They actually won the regional, and that’s a big deal. I didn’t really know if they were good enough to win the regional, but you know what? They have, and we still have a young team with one senior on the team. We’ve got these eighth graders, who are really tough right now, who are going to run with them next year. Our team’s actually rolling the way we want it to go.”

Ella Hesson looks to cap off her high school cross country career with her team at the top, as individual accolades have always been secondary to her. She scored a win in Mineral Wells, and junior teammate Natalie Sawin finished just a second behind her. Brianna Winsett is looking to leave her impact on the Class A landscape as a sophomore, and she capped off an all-Yellowjacket podium at the 21-minute mark. Junior Chloe Lightfritz finished behind Winsett with the first four spots belonging to WHS runners. Statements were made further down the results with freshman Reagan Ortiz, sophomore Brookelyn Reynolds and junior Torie Combs finishing 7-8-9, respectively.

Zach Cannon topped the region on the other side, and the sophomore’s speed was enough to take the line by five seconds. He talked about expectations and everything the team has battled through an uncertain season.

“The future looks good. We just need to work harder everyday and getting faster,” the regional winner said. “(Monday’s) practice for the state meet was good. I just hope we can continue that success for years to come. I hope we all run our hardest and run our best races to try and get up on the podium.”

Cannon isn’t the only one of Taylor’s runners to watch, as his six teammates look to also post quality times in Ona. Junior Dawson Winsett comfortably finished in fifth in Mineral Wells as a large part of the ‘Jacket victory. Sophomore Chase Trembly notch an eighth place finish to join Cannon and Winsett inside the top ten. Junior Alex Cockerham placed 15th at the 20-minute mark, still ahead of a majority of the pack by a good margin. Ryan Wager is the lone senior on the squad, and he finished just a few moments behind Cockerham in 17th. Sophomores Malachi Stewart (19th) and Dax Chancellor (23rd) cap off this hungry Williamstown bunch, as 14 of WHS’s best go for gold on Saturday.

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