The Brownsville St. Joseph boys cross country team had a strong outing at the TAPPS Class 5A state meet Monday in Waco.
The Bloodhounds finished sixth out of 21 teams. The Woodlands Christian Academy (70 points) won the state championship, followed by McKinney Christian Academy (128) and San Antonio TMI Episcopal (147).
Two Bloodhounds runners earned spots on the all-state team by finishing in the top 10. Junior Pedro Cardenas came in third with a time of 16:10.4 to lead St. Joseph. It was another strong outing by the top SJA runner after he clinched the TAPPS 5A District 6 individual championship Oct. 24 to help the Bloodhounds win the team title, too.
“It felt really good. It was one of my biggest accomplishments I’ve done throughout my high school career,” Cardenas said. “I’ve been wanting to place at a very high level at state, and I felt really relieved to know I’m capable of being in the top three in state. I felt like all my training finally paid off in the district and the state meet.
“It motivates me a bunch knowing I have a whole year to be able to train for my last state meet,” he continued. “The main reason (for our hard work and success) was the coaches. They were telling us it would all pay off in the end, and it paid off pretty well for all of us as a team.”
Sophomore Alejandro Ramirez was eighth and ran the course in 16:35.3. He had to fight to the end as he came to the finish line with two other competitors by his side. Ramirez was .3 seconds behind the seventh-place finisher and beat ninth place by .2 seconds.
“It felt amazing. Before the season, I did not imagine that I could train as hard as I did to get where I am today. That hard work paid off, it really did,” Ramirez said. “My coach (Louie Tijerina) was a big motivation. He was a state champion, and he told me, ‘You can get there, I know you’re capable.’ And I set a goal. When I set a goal, I want to work as hard as I can to achieve it and that’s what happened. My legs were really tired, but I remembered it was my last race and I gave it all I got.”
Freshman Jorge Albores finished 23rd, freshman Emilio Garcia was 80th and sophomore Jose Butron finished 104th to contribute to the Bloodhounds’ team score. The strong performance from their young team at the state meet inspired the SJA runners as they reflected on their strong season and the potential they have for years to come.
“(Our team performance) motivates us to know that we have a shot at the state championship next year and we can make it to the top three, even top team,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to be here for a lot of years, and we have a big future. That’s what motivates me to keep working as hard as I plan to, to get the state championship next year.”
SJA’s girls team placed 16th with a score of 391. Fort Worth Southwest Christian School (34) clinched the state championship, followed by Tyler Grace Community School (107) and The Woodlands Christian Academy (114).
Sophomore Amanda Hinojosa (59th place), senior Isabella Douglas (68th), junior Valeria Bazan (96th), senior Emma Gonzalez (98th) and freshman Ana Guerra (108th) were the top five runners for the girls team.
Bloodhounds coach Teddy Lopez said his team put together “an inspired performance” at the state meet, and he credits assistant coaches Michael Schlater and Tijerina — a St. Joseph graduate and distance running standout — for helping to get the program trending in a good direction.
“When you see young kids do that, it makes you think the best is yet to come. The kids have that sense, too, that, ‘Hey, something’s happening here, and it’s going to be good,’” Lopez said. “I was really excited and really appreciative watching them come in. I was so grateful that we had the opportunity to let these kids shine.”