State or bust.

That has been the mentality for La Feria’s boys cross county team since falling just short of a state title last season.

The 2022 Class 4A state runner-up took the RGV by storm this season with that mentality, finishing atop the team standings in five of six races against Valley competition, including a win at the Meet of Champions.

“Our mindset is different,” La Feria sophomore Armando Morales said. “Last year we’d go into meets just thinking we need to just do our best. This year, we’re focused on doing everything right. We are pushing through so we can hopefully bring that state title home this year.”

The Lions’ dominance is showing no end, claiming the top three spots in the Class 4A race at the Region IV cross country championships Tuesday en route to their second straight Region IV-4A team title at Dugan Track and Soccer Stadium in Corpus Christi.

The Lions totaled 40 points for the win, securing a spot at the 2023 UIL cross country championships in two weeks.

“It feels really good to take that trophy home,” La Feria sophomore Anthony Morales said. “I feel like all of us have a lot of big things we want to accomplish with this team. We got to do a little of that today. Now we’re looking forward to state.”

Leading the Lions to the win were twin siblings Armando and Anthony Morales, with the sophomores finishing first and second, respectively. The duo finished in the same positions last season.

Armando and Anthony’s times were near identical during this year’s meet, with Armando claiming his second straight regional title by less than a millisecond. Both runners recorded times of 16:00.16, according to the meet’s timing company.

“It means a lot to me,” Armando said. “It shows the amount of work I put in to get here. Today, I didn’t know if I was going to get No. 1 because I also have my brother running next to me. It just feels amazing. All my hard work is showing, and people can see it when I go out there during my races.”

The twins were followed by fellow sophomore Nathan Salinas, who battled through illness and clocked in at 16:17.22 to secure a sweep of the top three spots in the race.

Salinas’ finish improves from last year’s meet, where he came in eighth.

“I didn’t want to let the team down,” Salinas said. “We’re like a big family, so I knew I had to get third. I was relieved after the race. I was happy but I’m still a little disappointed in my times, but that’s OK. We’re feeling pretty good going into state. We’re looking forward to that race. I think it’s going to be challenging, but it’s definitely going to push us.”

La Feria’s boys team will be joined by its female counterpart at state, with the Lionettes finishing fourth in the Class 4A girls team standings behind a fourth-place finish from senior Liana Navarro.

In Class 5A, Weslaco East’s boys team and McAllen High’s girls team each earned spots at state, with the Wildcats finishing third and the Bulldogs fourth in their respective divisions.

The Bulldogs were led by a pair of top 10 finishers in junior Dana Rojas Vazquez and Kenzi Ramirez. Vazquez came in second during the race with a time of 18:32.60, and Ramirez finished sixth (19:00.27).

The Wildcats had no finishers inside the top 10 but had a group of four runners finishing within the top 40 to secure third in the team standings.

Vanguard Rembrandt’s boys team rounds out the group of five RGV teams to advance to state, finishing fourth in the Class 3A team standings.

The RGV also had an additional pair of individual regional champions crowned during Monday and Tuesday’s events, with Lasara’s Jose Ventura and Edinburg North’s San Juanita Leal joining Armando at the top spot on the podium.

Leal added to an already decorated career that includes a pair of District 31-6A titles with her second straight Region IV-6A individual crown in a time of 17:12.91. The senior distance runner was followed by another RGV competitor, with Edinburg Economedes’ Madison Surita earning her first career state berth by finishing second behind Leal with a time of 18:07.42.

Meanwhile, Ventura cruised to his first career regional title, beating out Tilden McMullen County’s Brandon Timms for the top spot on the podium during the Class 1A race. Ventura clocked in at 16:48.45, followed by Timms in 17:20.14.

A total of five RGV teams earned state meet berths, joined by an additional 24 Valley competitors who earned individual bids. The top four teams and top 10 individuals not on qualifying teams from each region earn state bids.

The 2023 UIL state cross country championships are set for Nov. 3-4 at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock. Class 5A, 3A and 1A competitors take the course Friday, Nov. 3, with Class 6A, 4A and 2A athletes to follow the next day.

For full results from the Region IV cross country championships, visit

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