BROWNSVILLE — It was a competitive morning at the BISD Encampment as the District 32-6A cross country runners competed for tickets to the regional meet.

The Harlingen South Lady Hawks used their pack mentality to cruise to the team district championship. They accumulated a winning score of 24 as all five scored runners finished in the top 10.

“I’m so happy for them. They run as a team, they practice as a team and they really root for each other. The way they ran today really showed how they pull each other along,” South coach Ralph De La Rosa said. “I think a lot of people might see cross country as kind of a leisure sport, but when you get out there and run 3.1 miles as fast as you can, you have to have some inner fight. These girls have it. They’re tremendous competitors.”

A group of South runners went straight to the lead and ran together throughout the race. South’s Alexis Fonseca and Harlingen High junior Ayianna Olivas separated from the pack and ran side by side, until one found another gear.

Olivas picked up her pace during the third mile and never looked back as training took over, perfectly executing her game plan. She finished in 20 minutes, 21.3 seconds, to win the individual district title and lead the Lady Cardinals team (52) that earned second.

“It’s amazing. I honestly want to cry, but I’m trying to keep it all in,” Olivas said. “I’ve been talking with my coach since the season started about how, this year, I’m going to come back stronger and try to go win it. We’ve been working real hard all season to get to this point so I could go out there and kill it.”

Fonseca held on to second place, and she was followed by a pair of Lady Hawks in Aliyah Fonseca (third) and Arriana Rodriguez (fourth). Victoria Scarberry and Damaris Solis took eighth and ninth place, securing the team’s victory.

“I would not want to play any sport against (the Fonseca sisters). They are cutthroat,” De La Rosa said. “Alexis had been nursing a bit of an injury, and when you see her run that first mile, it was pretty phenomenal. She just has that fight. She’s got a lot of guts.”

Brownsville Hanna’s Brissa Stinson rounded out the top five finishers, qualifying for the Region IV-6A meet as an individual along with teammate Fernanda Aguilar (seventh) and Los Fresnos’ Jasmine Ponce (sixth).

The second-place Lady Cardinals were represented by Olivas (first), Stephanie Suarez (ninth), Annabel Reyes (12th), Irene Ramirez (14th) and Brianna Venegas (16th). Weslaco High (66) — comprised of Kalissa Cavazos (10th), Lexie Escamilla (11th), Kaylee Munoz (13th), Anna Vela (15th) and Kennedy Villalpando (17th) — finished third.

The Donna North Chiefs (39) earned a tight team district championship in the boys race. They were led by Ricardo Rubio (fifth), Benjamin Rubio (sixth), Jose Torres (eighth), Melvin Gomez (ninth) and Jairo Pedraza (11th).

Brownsville Hanna senior John Abrego dominated the race to clinch the individual district championship, running it in 16:11.6. He led from start to finish, making a move midway through the second mile to create separation that consistently increased until he crossed the finish line more than 40 seconds before the next runner.

“It was the mental strategy,” Abrego said. “Learning the signs, feeling when it’s time to go, and most of all not doubting. When the time feels right, just do it, just go.

“It feels like I’m being a good role model for the rest of my team … showing that hard work pays off, getting people up north to say, ‘Hey, RGV’s pretty good.’”

Harlingen High senior Geovany Cisneros took second, followed by teammate Dominic Luna in third to lead the Cardinals (44) to a second-place finish in the team standings. A trio of Cardinals in Richard Loya (12th), Chris Nowak (13th) and Carlos Marchand (14th) aided the team score.

Abrego and Cisneros have battled in stellar races throughout their strong careers. The duo finished first and second last year, with the placings swapped. Abrego credited Cisneros and other competitors for pushing him.

“I think (last year) was more of a lesson learned to know that it’s not just me on the field that’s fighting hard,” Abrego said. “Those guys are on the same level as me, but I think it separates with the mental strategy.

“(Cisneros) had a little loss of pattern in his breath in the first mile and a half, so I took that sign and took off.”

Ethan Perez (seventh), Carlos Montes (10th), Juan Perez (15th) and Esteban Roblero (20th) helped Hanna (53) finish third. Weslaco High’s Derek Rodriguez (fourth) qualified as an individual.

The Region IV-6A meet is scheduled for Oct. 25 at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, with the 6A girls running at 8 a.m. and the boys at 8:30 a.m.