TEXARKANA — The cross country Leopards opened their season Sept. 12 at Trinity High School in Texarkana on a familiar course, but with some new opponents. With covid panic causing meets to be canceled, teams are eager to run whenever, wherever possible. The Trinity gathering drew teams from three states, including some that traveled three hours for the 8 a.m. start.
Class 6A Hot Springs Lakeside won both boys and girls senior high meets. De Queen was second in both divisions.
Lady Leopard Joselin Sanchez was the first De Queen finisher, coming in 12th. Abigail Barker placed 17th, Marlen Perez 20th, Jacklyn Sanchez 21st, Sara Victoriano 23rd and Wendy Victoriano 25th. Ashley Contreras was 27th, Litzy Hernandez 28th and Emily Garcia 34th. Giovanna Lerma was injured and did not finish the race.
For the senior boys, Johnny Sanchez finished fifth and Gustavo Garcia eighth. Manuel Alvarez was 13th, Carlos Aguilar 18th, Josh Camarillo 28th, Manuel Soto 29th and Juan Maldonado 30th. Caesar Cortez placed 37th, Ezequiel Gonzalez 44th and Jesus Campos 49th.
In the junior high boys race De Queen’s Randy Rodriguez placed eighth, Rodrigo Garcia 15th, Adrian Martinez 17th, Jonathan Ortiz 19th, Trenton Matthews 30th and David Beeny 37th.
In junior high girls Pressli Young was 34th, Kyanna Angeles 39th, Megan Buendia 43rd, Jaide Tatum 73rd, Martha Jaramillo 80th, Katelyn Ponce 99th and Stephanie Villeda 108th.
The Trinity meet was the first of the season in a year with multiple changes. The main reason of course is fear of the Covid 19 virus. Cross country meets will, as a general rule, be smaller. There will be a limited number of teams in a meet with a limited number of runners per team.
Previously there was no limit on the number of runners per team at Trinity. This time the maximum number was 10. “A lot of kids around the 10, 11, 12 area won’t get to compete as much,” said head De Queen coach Dennis Chaney.
For several years the cross country Leopards have faced fast competition early in the season by racing at the Hopkins County Invitational in Sulphur Springs, Tex. The governing body for athletics in Texas has limited meets to eight teams. De Queen was not one of the first eight to apply.
The Leopard schedule has several other changes as well. A date conflict resulted in dropping the meet in Wister, Okla. For the first time since De Queen has had a conference meet, it will not be run on the Ouachita Baptist University course. “The other schools didn’t want it there. That’s fine with me,” Chaney said.
The conference meet will be one of three meets at Mena, which had never been the site of a meet until Rich Mountain College got into the sport two years ago and converted an old golf course to another use. “I kind of like it that it has hills on it. It helps get ready for Oaklawn (site of the state meet),” Chaney observed.
The number of running Leopards may not be at quite the normal astronomical level. “We don’t have as many boys as usual, but we have more junior high boys than last year,” the coach said.
The De Queen boys team was state runner up last year, but was hit hard by graduation. Three of the first five Leopards at the state meet were seniors: Miguel Diaz, Anthony Sanchez and Jampiere Flores.
Johnny Sanchez, fourth overall at state, is back along with sophomores Carlos Aguilar and Gustavo Garcia who were De Queen’s sixth and seventh runners at state. “We’ve got some kids out that didn’t run last year,” Chaney pointed out.
The Lady Leopards, third at state last year, have more returnees.
Heidy Galvan, seventh overall at state, Xochitl Flores and Natalie Martinez graduated, but the remaining six of the Lady Leopards in the state competition are back: Jacklyn Sanchez, Kenya Martinez, Joselin Sanchez, Abigail Barker, Marlen Perez and Sara Victoriano.,
Galvan was the leading Lady Leopard for three years. “The girls don’t have anybody who is going to separate from the crowd like Heidy did, but they should finish in a pretty close group,” the coach said. “We have five or six very competitive girls.”
All things considered, the coach is cautiously optimistic. “We’re not in great shape, but we’ve got everybody out that I was expecting,” Chaney said. “With the core group we have, we are going to be competitive.
“A very few have surprised me with their improvement. We’re behind as a team but in decent shape for what we’ve had to deal with.”
For the first time, De Queen has three cross country coaches. Chaney and Brian Shelton have been joined by DHS boys track coach Jonathan Lindsey.
The addition came at a propitious moment. “It’s making it better,” Chaney said. “With all the things we’ve had to deal with because of covid, it’s made it easier.”