Much of the attention the Justin Northwest cross country team has received this year is centered on the girls, and rightfully so.
But Zach Kirkland is quietly having a very strong fall season, and coach George Lutkenhaus said he believes the junior could be a top runner at state.
Boys Top 5
Austen Dalquist, Keller: Won the Debbie G. Keller Classic with a time of 15:47.31.
Rafael Posada, FW Western Hills: Finished second at the Ken Gaston Invitational with a time of 16:30.13.
Grayson Birka, Arlington Martin: Finished third at the Ken Gaston Invitational with a time of 16:40.16.
Brenden Ottman, Keller Central: Finished third in the Varsity division of the McNeil Invitational with a time of 16:38.50.
Zach Kirkland, Justin Northwest: Finished fourth in the Varsity Gold division of the McNeil Invitational with a time of 15:45.20.
Girls Top 5
Olivia Olguin, Arlington Martin: Won the Ken Gaston Invitational with a time of 19:07.16.
Maria Castillo, Mansfield Legacy: Won the Debbie G. Keller Classic with a time of 19:32.69.
Darian Trammell, Arlington Bowie: Finished second at the Ken Gaston Invitational with a time of 19:47.74.
Grace Mayar, Hurst L.D. Bell: Finished third at the Ken Gaston Invitational with a time of 19:57.60.
Katherine Chavez, Justin Northwest: Finished fifth in the Varsity Gold division of the McNeil Invitational with a time of 18:16.90.
"Zach is one of those guys that has such a phenomenal finish, that if he can just stay close in any race, whether it is 800 meters or 5K in cross country, then there is no doubt in my mind that he is going to win the race," Lutkenhaus said.
Northwest entered the McNeil Invitational this past weekend ranked ninth in the state on the girls side and had two top 10 finishes, but Lutkenhaus said it was Kirkland who most impressed, finishing fourth at the meet individually.
"He had a great race," Lutkenhaus said. "He got out strong and hung with the leaders. He had a shot toward the middle of the race where the guys kind of pulled away a little bit too far, because he came to me afterward and said, 'Coach, I really think I could have won that.'"
Kirkland won the Jerry Garza Invitational in September, finished second at Decatur, second at the Ken Garland Invitational and third at the Haltom meet all this year.
Lutkenhaus said the objectives at this point for the junior runner are to keep him healthy and focused on his training, and said after a regional appearance last season, he is feeling pretty good about Kirkland's chances this year.
"He had a shot to get out last year, but came up just short, which is understandable for a sophomore runner that age," Lutkenhaus said. "I think he got a good experience of being out in Lubbock last year, so I think his chances are very good.
"That being said, the thing with cross country that is different from other sports is that you've got to be hitting on one day, and if you don't get it right that day, it is all over. So, a lot of times, it's what's between your ears at this time of year than what is in your legs."
Martin boys win
The Arlington Martin boys cross country team won the Ken Gaston Invitational meet last week, finishing seven points ahead of second place Midlothian.
Three Warriors runners finished in the top six places at the competition.
Grayson Birka took third place at the meet with a time of 16:40.16, Tyler Forde was fifth with a time of 16:48.77 and Adrian Guevara finished sixth with a time of 16:56.03.
The Martin girls finished seventh at the meet, and Warriors runner Olivia Olguin finished first individually.
Timber Creek sweeps
Keller Timber Creek made it a clean sweep at the Debbie G. Keller Classic on Saturday, as both the boys and girls won a team championships.
The Timber Creek boys dominated the competition, finishing with a score of 20 points and capturing five of the top six spots.
Alonzo Pollum, Aaron Willingham, Blake Contreras, Erik Wingfield, and Zachary Lindquist finished second through sixth respectively at the meet with an average time of 16:22.36.
On the girls side, the Falcons top five runners finished fifth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th at the meet.
Destiny Fillmer, Kristen Talbot, Estephanie Mendes, Olivia Cantu, and Jasmine Rivera were Timber Creek's top five female runners.
Lamar girls second
The Arlington Lamar girls cross country team finished second at the Ken Gaston Invitational this past weekend, finishing with 105 points, 44 points ahead of third place Arlington.
Tamerah Gorham was the top runner for the Vikings, finishing in fourth place with a time of 20:24.21.
Northwest girls fourth
After a bye week that allowed the Northwest Texans girls cross country team some time to heal up, they failed to disappoint at the McNeil Invitational, finishing fourth as a team in what could be a precursor to the state meet.
Katherine Chavez finished fifth in the Varsity Gold competition with a time of 18:16.90, Kellee McCann was next in sixth place with a time of 18:25.00, and Taylor Bohr finished 23rd overall at the meet with a time of 19:09.60.
"To get to the state meet is going to take a monumental effort," Lutkenhaus said. "We are going to have to run a perfect race and might need a little help."
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