Buster Lee grew up running with his father and grandfather. Then, last year that led to him deciding to give running cross country in high school a try.
Now, as a senior running in his final cross country race for the Millsap Bulldogs, he hopes to leave Old Settlers Park in Round Rock with the Class 3A state championship.
"I have been running with my dad for as long as I can remember," Lee said. "Oftentimes I ran in local 5k races, as well as a 10k race, with both my dad and grandpa. It became something that I loved to do."
Lee is one of seven area runners who will be competing Saturday in the University Interscholastic League State Cross Country Meet at Old Settlers Park in Round.
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Joining Lee will be freshmen twins Graydon and Gracie Morris, along with senior Harrison Tillman of Aledo; Brock sophohomore Kylee Laverty; freshman Sadie Tharp of Weatherford; and sophomore Brice Hardin of Peaster.
Lee's state qualification comes one year after he finished 27th in district. In his defense, he was battling an illness.
"I have been seriously training for about a year," he said. "After being sick last year during district I was determined to have a good season my senior year. I started training soon after district ended and consistently trained up until the season started."
This season he won the District 7-3A championship and qualified for state as one of the top runners in the Region I Meet in Lubbock on Oct. 29.
"Buster had a rough day, finishing 13th with a time of 17:42. Fortunately that was enough to qualify him for state," said Millsap coach Victor Pyle. "We are making plans that should help Buster finish in the top five and challenge for the championship."
Pyle also praised Lee for his leadership, not just on the team but throughout the entire school district.
"Buster has taken his personal time to cheer on the middle schoolers as they run and speak with them about their running," Pyle said. "He has been a great motivation for the on Septyounger runners. Buster is one of the top academic students at Millsap High and hopes to attend Texas A&M."
Lee, who has said he would like to run in college, will enter Saturday ranked eighth in the state with a top time of 16:16.19 over 5,000 meters Sept. 14 at the Lipan Invitational. The fastest time in the state belongs to senior Kyle Doty of Bruceville-Eddy, 15:23.9 Oct. 1 at the McNeil Invitational.
THARP FIRST WHS STATE QUALIFIER IN 11 YEARS
In Class 6A, Weatherford freshman Sadie Tharp will be competing. She is ranked 31st in the state, having clocked her best time of 18:16 Oct. 8 at the Decatur Reunion Run. Senior Abilene Ashton of Endsley leads the state, running a 16:50.7 on Oct. 1 at the McNeil Invitational.
Tharp is the first Weatherford runner to reach state since David Hebert in 2005. He placed third and went on to run for Texas A&M.
"Sadie is a very gifted runner with the heart of a lion. She trains hard on a daily basis and is using this week to build mileage since we have a weekend off," Weatherford coach Ty Comstock said. "It has been fun to watch her compete against the older girls and never back down."
ALEDO SENDING THREE COMPETITORS
Freshmen twins Graydon and Gracie Morris are each ranked second in the state in Class 5A. Graydon's best time is 14:58.7 at the McNeil Invitational. Gracie ran a 17:56.8 in that same meet.
Senior Harrison Tillman, making a return trip to state, is ranked 10th with a best time of 15:41 at McNeil.
The top boys 5A time this season is from junior Ace Castillo or Corpus Christi Tuloso-Midway, 14:56 at the McNeil Invitational. The fastest girls time in 5A is 16:48.6 by freshman London Culbreath of McKinney North at McNeil.
"Graydon won the Region 1 Meet by 22 seconds and will be in contention for winning State," Aledo coach Stan Reid said. "Gracie was in first place for the first two miles at regionals and is anticipating the challenge of competing with London Culbreath of McKinney North for the state title. Harrison is looking forward to the state meet and has his site on being on the medalist stand in Round Rock."
PEASTER'S HARDIN MAKING FIRST STATE TRIP
Peaster sophomore Brice Hardin is making his state debut. He is ranked 29th in the state, running a 16:39 Sept. 2 at the Burleson Elk Run.
"He ran a smart race and is peaking at just the right time," Peaster coach Debra Wood said. "He works hard and has been a great example for his teammates. We are excited to have met our goal this year."
BROCK'S LAVERTY GOING SOLO THIS SEASON
Brock sophomore Kylee Laverty is returning to state, albeit she had her entire team with her last season. Laverty is ranked 40th in the state and ran a season-best 12:41.6 over 2 miles on Sept. 9 at the Keene Invitational.
Sophomore Chandra Westbrook clocked 11:30 Sept. 10 at the Tyler Lee Classic, the fastest 3A time this season at that distance.