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Mid-County cross country teams ready to race

When schools shuttered last spring, many high school coaches believed that at least fall sports would not return for the 2020-21 school year.

On Saturday, Nederland will host the Bulldog Invitational for cross-country runners at Doornbos Park.

Port Neches-Groves head coach Josh Tanner said he is excited to see his student athletes compete.

“I’m just thankful that we went back to the kids getting to compete and participate in UIL sports,” Tanner said. “I’m looking for to it and excited about it. We’ve been working really hard through the pandemic, and then having school off because of the hurricanes. We’ve been doing the best we can.”

Tanner said he is most excited to see his girls team compete. The team added five promising freshman and a familiar face, he said.

“The five freshmen girls are really strong runners,” he said. “They are really amping up the level up practice. We had Grace Richard return for her senior year. She ran for us her freshman year and finished third in district and hasn’t run for us since. She is a strong soccer player, and she decided to come back and run this year.”

Tanner said Richard, who is the only senior on the squad, has already impressed with her practice runs.

“We have timed practices on Thursday mornings, and she is already right back at the top of the team,” he said. “She is pushing them and leading them.”

The PNG coach said he is particularly anxious to see sophomore Sanaria Butler and freshman Katherine Page compete.

“They ran in some of the middle school meets last year, so I knew they were coming up,” he said. “(Page) is right up there with Richards as far as her pace and endurance. (Butler) finished second in district last year. She was our No. 1 last year and the talent on the team is pushing her to be better. To have that rivalry within the team is going to spur us on.”

The Nederland cross country team competed in its first meet in Huffman last Thursday.

Head coach Tommy Olesky said the meet was a good way to break in the new season.

“It was just a great feeling to get back to that competition and being there with our kids for the first time since spring break,” he said. “You remember why you do this and how much you are missing out on by not being able to do this during COVID. They competed really well for not having done it in so long.”

The Bulldogs coach said he is excited to bring back multi-sport sophomore Ava Wiltz.

“As a freshman, she lettered in five sports,” Olesky said. “She was our top finisher last year at district. She is an all-around athlete. She is on varsity volleyball, too. I think this week she will show how good of shape she is in.”

He said he also wants to see what freshman Trace Swanson brings to the team.

“He’s looked pretty good most of the summer,” Olesky said. “It’s all new to him so he is getting the hang of it. I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Seniors Blake Webb and Claire Broussard have also been a steady, leading presence for the team.

“They’re both showing their experience by being in good shape and running well, too.”

Olesky said he is happy to be hosting the meet Saturday.

“It’s always good to run in familiar circumstances,” he said. “It has been much more involved this year as we try to meet all of the COVID guidelines. We want to keep everyone healthy. We want to have a safe and competitive place for kids to run.”

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