MISSION — La Feria’s Anthony Morales, Armando Morales and Nathan Salinas set a high bar for themselves and their team going into this season.
Last year, the then-freshman helped the Lions claim District 32-4A and Region IV-4A team championships, while finishing second in the overall team standings during the Class 4A state meet.
La Feria’s “Super Sophomores” are hungry for more this year.
“Today feels good and we’re proud of ourselves,” Anthony said. “It is kind of cool to be among that group of the best in the Valley. But us three, we’re going to leave our own mark.”
The Lions trio helped the Lions take a major step towards their season goals Saturday, each finishing in the top four to lead La Feria to the overall team championship and cement their status as the RGV’s top boys cross country team during the RGVCCA’s Meet of Champions at Sharyland Pioneer.
La Feria was the only team to have three runners finish in the top 20 during the boys elite race.
“Going into this race, we just kept thinking we’re going to run until I pass out,” Salinas said. “That is what we did. It is fun being in the top five together. I love this team. We just love racing.”
All three runners clocked in under 16 minutes Saturday, a good sign as championship season approaches. Only Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis’ Angel Sanchez ran a sub-16-minute mark during last year’s Class 4A state meet.
Armando led the way for the Lions on Saturday, clocking in at 15 minutes, 21.8 seconds to claim the individual championship. Anthony followed in 15:23.1 for second, while Salinas finished in 15:47.7 for fourth. Edinburg North’s Alexis Rodriguez came in third in 15:29.4.
“We got three under 16 minutes. That is going to help us at district, regionals and hopefully to make a run at that state title,” Armando said. “If we did it last year, we can do it again and do it even better this year.”
The Lions aren’t satisfied with being the RGV’s best, instead hoping Saturday’s victory sparks a run at the Class 4A state title.
First, they’ll need to defend their District 32-4A crown in two weeks and their Region IV-4A title in a month.
“The message in the locker room now is let’s go get these dubs,” Anthony said.
“We’re going for state,” Salinas added.
La Feria’s big three weren’t the only ones who made noise during Saturday’s meet. In the Elite girls race, Edinburg North’s San Juanita Leal returned to form, breaking the sub-18-minute barrier for the first time in three races en route to her third straight Meet of Champions individual crown.
The Cougars senior distance runner finished in a season-best 17:23.1 for the win, her 10th straight victory against RGV competition.
“I never really thought I’d be on top in the Valley,” Leal said. “Winning the Meet of Champs my sophomore year was an eye opener on everything I could do. I had a rough start to this season. I started a little later. My first race felt perfect but the following few races I felt like I was running without courage and wasn’t pushing it as much. Slowly but surely, I’ve been finding my way back up.”
Leal was followed by Edinburg Economedes’ Maddison Surita, who etched her named into the RGV cross country history books by becoming just the sixth female runner to break the sub-18 barrier.
Surita’s time of 17:51.3 ranks No. 4 all-time in the Valley according to RGV cross country historian Carlos Vela.
While Leal and Surita delivered dominant individual performances, it was Harlingen High taking home the team title in the elite girls division.
The Cardinals finished with 88 points to earn the top spot in the team standings, followed by Edinburg Vela (123) and Sharyland High (140). Juliana Garcia and Stephanie Juarez paced Harlingen High to the team win, finishing fifth (19:27.8) and eighth (19:40.4), respectively.
For full results from the Meet of Champions, visit www.rgvsports.com.