• Centennial’s girls cross country team finished third Saturday morning at the UIL Class 5A state championship in Round Rock. It was the Lady Spartans first appearance at the state cross country meet. Shown are, from left, assistant coaches Kara Cuellar and Matt Hansen, Vantashia Bond, Ashley Campbell, Serena Bersuch, Marina Grimaldo, Rainey Southall, Harli Woolsey, Abby McCandless, Sarah Trammel, Kayla Whitmire, Alyssa Blankenship and head coach Sarah Eden. BURLESON STAR/SHAW STUDIOS

Lady Spartans finish third at state

Freshman Woolsey finishes fourth overall

It takes time to tabulate results at a cross country meet and Saturday morning’s UIL Class 5A girls state championship was no exception.

With a technical difficulty slowing down the results, Centennial cross country coach Sarah Eden sent her team off for its cool down run and assigned assistant coach Matt Hansen the task of getting the final results. The team returned from its run to find a stoic Eden standing with stone-faced assistant coach Kara Cuellar and Hansen.

When Eden thrust her fist in the air and yelled, “We finished third!” it set off a celebration among the runners and coaches.

“When they were getting back from the run, I told the coaches ‘don’t smile.’” Eden said. “Then I lost it.”

Senior Rainey Southall said when she saw coach Eden’s face, she was scared because she wasn’t sure where they had finished.

“Coach tried to look disappointed, then she yelled we had finished third,” freshman Harli Woolsey said. “Then we all started screaming and had a big group hug. There were some tears.”

Going into the Lady Spartans first trip to state, Eden hoped her team could finish in the Top 5. Placing third was truly unexpected considering the caliber of teams in the race, which took place at Round Round’s Old Settlers Park.

Centennial scored 135 points to finish third. Frisco Liberty won the title with 122 points and Canyon Randell was second (126 points). The Lady Spartans finished ahead of Region II champion Highland Park, which finished seventh (172 points).

“It hasn’t sunk in yet that we finished third,” senior Kayla Whitmire said. “I cried when we found out. It was just so cool, considering we had missed out on state two years ago by two points, plus we are from a school that no one has heard of and we finished third. We knocked some big schools out like Highland Park.”

Eden said she was ecstatic when she heard they had finished third. Before the race, she told her runners that everyone is going to run their best race and if they can do that, they would have a shot at a trophy.

“I thought we could get in the Top 5, but I really thought we had a chance to be on the medal stand,” Eden said.

Woolsey led the Lady Spartans, finishing fourth in a school-record time of 17 minutes, 59.71 seconds. Junior Sarah Trammel was 20th in a time of 18:32.44. Trammel was making her third-consecutive appearance at state, but was excited to run with her team and not an individual medalist.

“Having our whole team there was exciting and special,” Trammel said.

Junior Abby McCandless finished 32nd in a time of 19:02.91. Sophomore Ashley Campbell was 39th in a time of 19:12.01. Sophomore Marina Grimaldo finished 123rd in a time of 20:41.22. Senior Rainey Southall was 125th in a time of 20:43.77 and Whitmire finished 146th in a time of 22:16.54.

“Harli ran amazingly well and broke her own school record,” Eden said, “Sarah and Abby were amazing, and Marina and Rainey were running side-by-side most of the race.”

Woolsey’s fourth place finish set things up for the future. McKinney North sophomore London Culbreath took first and Aledo sophomore Gracie Morris was third, meaning the trio could be dueling for the next two seasons at state.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to my freshman season,” Woolsey said. “I was just hoping for a Top 10 finish or at least a Top 5. I stayed in fourth the whole race from the one-mile mark on.”

More than 100 former Centennial cross country runners, family and fans showed up in Round Rock for the Saturday morning race.

Eden said the turnout for the state meet stunned her.

“It was great,” Eden said. “People who didn’t even have kids running on varsity were there. It was neat.”

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