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Just Getting Started

Lady Rattler recent victory bodes well for future

After winning the team championship at the Annual Edcouch Elsa Vickey Llanes LaMaquina Invitational, The Sharyland Lady Rattlers cross country team is starving for another opportunity to show the entire valley their half decade long dominance isn’t over. “What time is it? 5:45, It’s wonderful out here,” head coach Melissa Dearth said Tuesday evening. Tuesdays are for hills. While most people cringe at the idea of running up one hill one time, The Lady Rattlers exited their bus beaming with pure joy as they prepared for their evening run. With a recent team championship, return to the RGV Top 10, and the promise of tomorrow’s Meet of Champions Cross Country Invitational on their minds, it’s easy to understand where the joy comes from. The Lady Rattlers love running, love winning, and love doing both together.

Six freshmen occupy spots in the Lady Rattlers top twelve. Last week they led the way and secured a dominant team victory without their top seniors. School record holder Cecillia Cavazos competed with senior Albeza Heredia at the McNeil Invitational in Round Rock one day prior. Cavazos placed 3rd with a time of 20:48.20 and Heredia placed 29th with a time of 22:52.10. Their absence early in the year left the Lady Rattlers without veteran support and senior leadership as a huge influx of untested freshmen joined the team.  “This year started off as a rebuilding year, but it wasn’t supposed to be,” Coach Dearth said. Injuries sidelined their top two runners and it wasn’t certain the freshmen could handle the burden of carrying the team.

Now things are different.  “People think we’re not that good, but in reality we’re awesome,” freshman runner and third place finisher Sofia Garza said. Lady Rattlers’ freshmen Fernanda Espinoza and Annika Santos finished 2nd and 13th overall, with respective times of 19:59.11 and 20:05.48. Freshmen placers also included Isabella Castillo (22nd), Barbara Franco (35th), and Grecya Campos (51st).  Lone sophomore and varsity newcomer Graciella Rogers placed 6th with a time of 20:39.42. The Lady Rattlers commitment to healthy training habits, classroom excellence and each other are the reason why they’ve catapulted up the standings and look ready for a sixth consecutive district championship. “They’ve been eating and sleeping better, lifting weights better, consistently coming to practice. They’re really getting stronger. And they’re pushing each other. They’re really a close knit group this year,” Dearth said.

The Lady Rattlers victory wasn’t without struggle. “There was this girl that was trying to stay in front of us. She would get in front of us and run through us. She was pushing us. She would get in front us and start sprinting…but in the end we got her,” Garza said. Castillo, who placed inside the top 25 and finished with a time of 21:35.63 felt the pressure midway through the race. “I thought it was going to be my fault that we didn’t win. They were all close together and there was a gap between me and the fourth man. So I was really happy that we won and the loss wasn’t on me,” Castillo said.

Pictured from left to right: (Far left) Mrytha Campos (12th), Grecya Campos (9th), Annika Santos (9th), Fernanda Ezpinoza (9th), Sofia Garza (9th), Graciela Rogers (10th) (Far Right).

Castillo’s will to succeed for her teammates is an infectious quality present throughout the team. As Dearth detailed each athlete’s bonafides, each one cheered for the other. Senior Myrtha Campos, whose main draw to the team is competition friendship, runs with her younger sister Grecya every day and exemplifies this. As a senior on a team with half a dozen quality freshmen, Campos has thrived in her role as a veteran, competitor and supporter.  “Even if I don’t make it to their level I definitely always wanna be there and watch them because I think it’s so fun to see how far they can go. And that’s really the only thing I care about; that the team will do good,” said Campos.

After a disappointing start to the 2023 season the Lady Rattlers now rank second in district with only four meets remaining. Their team will finally be at full strength tomorrow as they compete against RGV powers like the McHi Bulldogs, the Harlingen Cardinals and fellow Big 7 rival the Palmview Lobos. The Lady Rattlers ambitions extend beyond tomorrow and their past success colors that reality. But past glory doesn’t motivate them; a dedicated and caring head coach, lively competitive spirits, love for the sport, and the promise of their own potential do. Winning is just a byproduct.

“We’ve got young kids that are turning into quality because they worked all summer. And they listen. Like, wow! I get these kids for the next four years,” Dearth said with a smile. The Lady Rattlers were teetering to start the year and it maybe looked like their championship ways were fading. Now they’re back in the winner’s circle, almost like they never left. Yet, it feels like they’re just getting started.

Team Results from the third Edcouch Elsa Vickey Llanes LaMaquina Invitational

  1. Sharyland High
  2. Edcouch-Elsa
  3. Harlingen South
  4. Sharyland Pioneer
  5. Edinburg Vela
  6. McAllen Memorial
  7. Weslaco
  8. Donna North
  9. La Joya
  10. Brownsville Pace
  11. Hidalgo Early College


Other Notable Individual Big 7 Performances  

Name School Place Time
Emma Gaither Sharyland Pioneer HS 9th 20:51.91
Astrid Soriano Sharyland Pioneer HS 11th 20:57:33
Yaretzy Buentello Sharyland Pioneer HS 12th 21:07.71
Analee Islas Sharyland Pioneer HS 26th 21.48.25
Asante Stewart La Joya 32nd 22:19.55
Barbara Gurrola La Joya Juarez Lincoln 38th 22:43.12 


Future Lady Rattler CC Meet Information (Majors):

Meet Name Location Date
Meet of Champions Cross Country Invitational Sharyland Pioneer High School, Mission, TX September 30th, 2023
UIL District 31-5A Championships Springfest Park, McAllen TX October 12th, 2023
UIL Region IV Cross Country Championships Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX October 23rd, 2023
UIL State Championships Old Settlers Park

Round Rock, TX

November 3rd, 2023


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