BROWNSVILLE — There was a competitive field at the Brownsville ISD Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at the BISD Encampment.

The Harlingen South Lady Hawks picked up a dominant victory in the girls team standings, boasting four top-10 finishers and a team score of 38. Alexis Fonseca and Victoria Scarberry took third and fourth, respectively, and were closely followed by Arianna Rodriguez (sixth) and Aliyah Fonseca (eighth). Luz Jimenes contributed to the team score.

“We as a staff were very pleased,” South cross country coach Ralph De La Rosa said. “We have been saying all season that we need to run as a pack, and it looked like we got better at it today. We have girls that don’t mind pushing the pace and (bringing) their teammates with them.”

Brownsville Veterans Memorial sophomore Naia Gracia won the individual girls title, running 19:07.6. Gracia was among the leaders from the gun, separating from the pack with a group of Harlingen South runners and Harlingen High’s Ayianna Olivas, who won silver, during the first mile.

Gracia and Olivas were steps apart as they pulled away on the second lap, but it was Gracia who found another level in the final mile. She finished almost 25 seconds ahead of any other runner.

Gracia cried tears of relief over not letting her supporters down after the race. She had family, friends, coaches and teammates encouraging her at different points throughout the course.

“I saw everybody cheering for me, and it was super emotional,” Gracia said. “I didn’t want them to feel disappointed in me, and that’s what got me going to finish the race. It was super painful because my breathing was already hurting in the last mile, but everybody (was) telling me to keep on going. I just had to give it all, and that’s what I did. … (I feel) super good, super accomplished and proud of myself.”

Harlingen High (66) took second place. Contributing to the Lady Cardinals’ score were Stephanie Suarez (13th), Annabel Reyes (14th), Irene Ramirez (16th adjusted, 18th overall) and Brianna Venegas (21st, 23rd).

Brownsville Veterans Memorial (83) finished third. Loren Averyt (12th) and Bianca Mascoro (15th, 17th) picked up top-20 finishes. Angela Garcia (23rd, 25th) and Kaitlyn Barrios (32nd, 38th) aided the team score.

Brownsville Hanna’s Brissa Stinson (fifth) and Fernanda Aguilar (10th), Los Fresnos’ Jasmine Ponce (seventh) and San Benito’s Deandra Ibarra (ninth) rounded out the top 10 girls finishers.

The meet was essentially a District 32-6A meet preview, with all of the district’s schools running at the future meet site. De La Rosa said the experience and victory will bode well for the young Lady Hawks as they keep “learning and growing” for district.

“It’s important for our runners to get a visual of the course and understand the layout, and it’s always good to run against this very competitive group of young ladies in our district,” De La Rosa said.

The boys race was dictated by a trio of athletes who have solidified themselves as the top distance runners in the East Valley. Harlingen High’s Geovany Cisneros, Brownsville Hanna’s John Abrego and Brownsville St. Joseph’s Pedro Cardenas quickly rose to the front of the pack.

Abrego and Cisneros were neck and neck as they separated from the rest during the second mile. Abrego took a slim lead early in the final mile and managed to create some space, but Cisneros made a move with the finish line in sight.

“I made my move last 800 meters. I didn’t think I had anything left in the tank, but I heard my coaches and parents yelling at me, and I saw him looking back and slowing down, so I decided to give it all I got, and it paid off,” Cisneros said. “Coming in I was scared he was going to pass me again, but when I crossed the finish line I felt good, relieved.”

Cisneros clocked in at 15:46 to win the individual gold. Abrego took second with a 15:54. Harlingen High’s Dominic Luna overtook Cardenas during the final mile and held him off at the line, putting them in third and fourth, respectively.

The boys team standings included adjusted scores. Brownsville St. Joseph’s three runners were all among the first 10 to cross the finish line. Behind Cardenas, Alejandro Ramirez was fifth and Jorge Albores was seventh.

The Donna North Chiefs won the boys team title with a score of 43. With adjusted scores, they had three top-10 finishers in Marc Corpus (fifth adjusted/eighth overall), Jose Torres (sixth/ninth) and Ricardo Rubio (seventh/10th). Benjamin Rubio and Jairo Pedraza added to the team score.

Cisneros and Luna led the Cardinals (59) to a second-place finish. Contributing to the team score were Carlos Marchand (eighth/11th), Chris Nowak (19th, 23rd) and Oscar Martinez (28th, 32nd).

“It’s a good thing we raced here because we’ll know the course (for district), and it gives me confidence in my team that they’ll know what happened here and they’ll want to work harder so come district we’ll get the win,” Cisneros said.

Hanna (68) took third. Ethan Perez (12th, 15th), Carlos Montes (16th, 19th), Esteban Roblero (17th, 21st) and Juan Perez (21st, 25th) aided the team placing.

McAllen Rowe’s Kevin Cardenas in sixth overall in the individual boys standings.

[email protected]