WESLACO — During her high school career, little has been able to slow down Amity Ebarb or keep her off the podium.
The Weslaco High senior has strung together one of the most dominant careers of all time for distance runners in the Rio Grande Valley.
Ebarb has qualified for back-to-back University Interscholastic League Cross Country State Championship meets and will be looking to make her third trip to the UIL’s Track and Field State Championship meet this spring.
She headlines a deep group of girls distance runners into the RGV’s district championship meets this week and hopes to make a statement on her road back to state.
“This season has definitely been really different with having meets with only a limited amount of teams which is way different from what we’re used to,” Ebarb said. “I think I’ve improved most on my confidence and I feel like since this pandemic started I’ve learned to push myself harder since I never know when my last race can be, considering how we were shut down last year.”
Ebarb, a Texas Longhorns signee, was on a tear during her junior season before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly stopped track and field teams across the Valley in their tracks.
The Panthers’ distance runner had finished in first place in both the 400 and 800 meters in each of the four meets she participated in before the remainder of the season was canceled.
She picked up right where she left off as a senior, though, earning the top finish of any RGV runners at the 2020 UIL Cross Country state meet, finishing 47th overall in Class 6A.
Ebarb has been equally dominant this track season, winning every 400 and 800-meter race she’s ran. Her 2 minute, 15 second finish at the Weslaco ISD Jimmy Platt Mid-Valley Classic ranks as the second-best time throughout Region IV this year.
Her goal is to get back to state in both events, where she finished among the top eight 6A runners across Texas as a sophomore.
“I think what helps me a lot is that I put all my effort into everything that I do and if I have a goal in mind, I never back away from it and put all my focus to it,” she said. “I also think that I’ve accomplished all that I have because of the amazing coaches that I have because sometimes when I start feeling unconfident in something that I do, they’re always there to get my mind back to where it needs to be and they push me to be the best.”
Ebarb has also been a key component in Weslaco’s dominant 4×400 relay team this season along with Emma Arndt, Kalissa Cavazos and Alessa Zapata.
Together, the group has gone undefeated in the event so far this season and enters the District 32-6A meet as heavy favorites to advance to the area meet and beyond.
“The main goal is to move on to area, of course, but I hope to PR in my 200 and my jumps, so I can move up in the rankings for regionals,” Arndt said. “I am hoping my team can improve our time for the 4×400 also.”
Ardnt has also thrived in the long jump and triple jump this year, collecting six first-place finishes in the two events through four meets.
She has excelled during her senior season as one of the mid-Valley’s most versatile track and field athletes with expectations of claiming a district title in multiple events this week.
“I have to do a little more work than some of the other girls sometimes because I have jump work along with regular workouts,” she said. “It can be draining to do five events every meet, but when you love what you’re doing it’s also a lot of fun.”
While Weslaco’s distance runners enter the week as early favorites in Class 6A, however, Class 5A will be filled with contenders from every corner of the RGV.
McAllen High and Sharyland High both bring a deep lineup of distance runners that rank among the 5A season leaders in Region IV who should vie for the top spots at the District 31-5A meet.
But Edcouch-Elsa’s Vanessa Cerda enters as the favorite in District 32-5A and has put together one of the most complete seasons of any of the Valley’s distance runners.
“It’s just staying motivated and just learning to love the sport,” Cerda said. “Not only loving to run but as well as loving to compete and wanting to become the best runner you can be.”
Cerda has been one of the Yellow Jackets’ most consistent performers this season. She has won the 400 four times and the 800 twice while serving as the anchor on Edcouch-Elsa’s 4×400 relay team.
Cerda hopes to capture district championships in all three events this week to cap off a decorated high school career
“Junior year was a tough year with how things ended right before district so it feels awesome,” she said. “I’m very grateful to even have a season and as a senior, it means a lot being able to compete one last time at the high school level.”