The Southlake Carroll cross country teams entered Saturday's state meet at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock with a huge target on their backs.
The Dragons' boys and girls swept the 2011 state meet in dominating fashion, and state powerhouses like The Woodlands, Humble Kingwood and The Woodlands College Park were looking to exact some revenge this time around.
The Carroll teams handled the pressure well, though, and both sides once again emerged as state champions.
"We definitely felt the pressure going in," coach Justin Leonard said. "We knew that everyone wanted to beat us, but we also felt confident. We knew what we were capable of doing."
Nate Sullivan (15:11.72), Joe Sansone (15:17.90), Trevor Gilley (15:28.91) and Connor Hendrickson (15:29.57) all finished in the top 10 on the boys' side, but it was the effort of Carroll's fifth runner, Eli Canal (16:01.22), whom Leonard said especially impressed him.
"He really kept it tight for our group of boys," Leonard said. "He stepped it up and did what he needed to do to help us win state."
The Carroll boys finished with a score of 27 points, 44 ahead of second place The Woodlands.
On the girls' side, Courtney Kriegshauser (17:57.32), Shelby Chapin (18:05.37), Elena Arriaza (18:05.82) and Antigone Archer (18:09.25) all finished in the top 10 at the state meet, but again, it was the girls' fifth-place runner, Madison Keen (18:40.06), whom Leonard said really stepped it up.
"Madison had to run a good race to keep things close," Leonard said. "I was really pleased with how well she ran."
The Carroll girls finished with a score of 32 points, 63 points ahead of second place Humble Kingwood.
Leonard said it was difficult to put into words how big of an accomplishment it was for both teams to win back-to-back state championships.
"It is really incredible," Leonard said. "I don't think a lot of people realize how hard it is to win one state championship, let alone two. And to do it back-to-back on both sides is just phenomenal."
Decatur wins, Alvarado third
Led by Taylor Clayton's second-place effort (16:37.34) and Daniel Smyer in eighth (16:59.44), Decatur claimed the boys 3A title, with 56 points.
The Alvarado boys, for the first time in school history, brought home a medal -- bronze.
"Going into the meet, we really thought we had a chance to take first," said Alvarado coach Darryl Bishop, contending that the team can do better. "We came away with third place, and I think the boys did fantastic. This is the first time an Alvarado cross country team has even qualified for state."
Indians runner Kevin Nunez (16:39.34) finished third at the state meet, following up an eighth-place finish last season.
"I am extremely proud of him," Bishop said. "He has gotten better each year and ran very well today with all things considered."
Justin Domangue (16:57.36) finished seventh for Alvarado.
4A athletes excel
Burleson's Jessica Prickett (18:07.81) finished third overall at the girls' Class 4A state cross country meet. Boswell's Penny Taylor (19:19.37) finished ninth, and the Boswell girls' team also finished ninth.
We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Comments deemed inappropriate will be removed and repeated abusers will be banned. NOTE: If you log in using your Twitter account, your comments will be signed using the name on your Twitter profile, NOT your Twitter user name. Read our full comment policy.