WESLACO — Amity Ebarb’s goal this season is to win the District 31-6A title, regional title and make it to the state cross country meet again.
“The goal is to go back-to-back,” said Pablo Almaguer, Weslaco High girls cross country coach. “It’s hard to win one, but to win two in a row is pretty hard.”
She set a personal best of 18 minutes, 28 seconds in the 5K cross country in district competition last year.
Last year at the state competition Ebarb finished 47th overall running against more than 100 competitors.
Led by Ebarb, the Wesalco Panthers ran to their first regional title in school history. Now, runners across the Valley are preparing for the Edcouch-Elsa Cross Country Invitational on Aug. 16 and the Meet of Champions on Aug. 17, held in Donna, to kick off the 2019 cross country season.
Ebarb said she runs cross country because it makes her a better runner and prepares her for tracks, and the proof is in state record books.
During the second day of the 2019 UIL Region IV track meet in San Antonio, Ebarb, also a track standout, competed in three races — the 400-meter dash, 800-meter dash, 4×400-meter relay — and she won or was a part of all three gold medal-winning races for Weslaco High.
Her 400-meter time of 55.44 seconds set a Valley record. The decade-old record belonged to Kathy Treviño of Rio Grande City, who finished third at the 2008 UIL Class 4A state meet in 55.90 seconds.
Cross Country became a sport nearly 200 years ago. It was established in England for rowers to condition in the off season by running long distances in the open field along the Thames River.
While other runners across the nation may be complaining about running up hills or facing some cold weather, Valley runners may feel like they’re getting a break when the temperatures reach only 100.
Their mental strength is equal to the legs that keep them going mile after mile with a heat index that will reach 115 degrees or more and a wind that feels like a hair dryer in the face.
Ebarb started running cross country in junior high and was inspired by her grandparents, who are also runners.
She said it’s a wonderful feeling when she competes and runs the 5K route and she sees her grandparents and family cheering for her and the Panthers along the sidelines.
“I get a lot of family support and it’s motivating,” Amity said. “As a team we are very ready and motivated to win a title.”
Ebarb and her teammates Destiny Longoria, Anna Vela, Jenna Martinez and Natalie Garcia have been running routes around town to get ready for this year’s competition.
“We run around town and parks to get our workouts in,” Ebarb said.
PSJA High Girls Cross County Head Coach Natalie Ruiz said her team is excited about the upcoming season.
She said Faith Cruz and Carissa Gonzalez are two runners on the PSJA High team to watch out for this season.
Gonzalez was PSJA High’s only regional cross country qualifier last year.
“The girls are ready, and pumped,” Ruiz said.