Dunton heads for state cross-country
Senior Marlin runner Matt Dunton 's cross country season is not yet over. After placing third overall at regional among 179 other runners in the boys' 5K (3.12 miles) with a career best time of 16:19, Dunton will advance to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 11, in Round Rock at Old Settlers Park. The race starts at noon.
The Lady Marlins ended their season in fourth place at the regional state-qualifying meet held at the Brookes City Air Force Base Golf Course in San Antonio on Saturday, Nov. 4.
"I was pretty stoked after regionals," Dunton said. "But now I'm focused on getting top 10 at state so I can medal."
His success did not come easily, as he trained all season long to continuously lower his times.
"From the first race at the beginning of this season to this past one at regionals, I have dropped about three minutes," Dunton said.
"I'm not sure where this performance came from," said Coach Steve Reaves. "I just know he wanted it really badly, and he wasn't going to be denied. I saw him on the course with around 1,000 meters to go, and he was in sixth place with three through 10 within 20 yards of each other. The next time I saw him he was with about 300 meters left and he was in third place with the fourth place runner about 30 yards behind him."
"I'm not sure what he did in that 700 meters, but it definitely worked," Reaves added.
As far as the girls' team is concerned, after taking home a district championship and placing fourth at the regional state-qualifying meet, Reaves could not have been more proud.
"They set high goals for themselves and instead of just talking about it, they went out and did it," Reaves said of his girls.
Actually "doing it," however, isn't easy.
"There is rarely a fun day in practice, but the improvements made this year were unbelievable," senior runner Leah Matthews said. "You will not find a harder working or more dedicated group of people in this sport."
The team did not qualify for the state meet, as only the top three teams advance, but the girls still consider this to have been a very successful season.
"The bonds we made on this team are unlike any other because of the pain and the determination we all share in," Matthews said. "We all did it for each other."
Fellow senior runner Mary Teller agrees.
"The best part of the season was definitely all of us bonding," Teller said. "We really came together as a team."
From all this bonding emerged busride rituals, pre-race traditions and a number of inside jokes.
"Before each race, the whole team gets in a circle, holds hands and prays for us all to do well and to keep us free from injuries," Teller said. "And we always sit in the same places on the bus, out of fear of the team for some reason doing badly if we switched it up."
The superstitions don't stop at the runners.
"When we do well, Coach Reaves won't wash the shirt he wore to that meet, and he'll save it for the next one for good luck," Teller said.
Something must be working. In the two mile-long race among 177 girls, junior Lia Phillips finished 13th with a time of 13 minutes flat, freshman Rebecca Armanovs came in 38th place with a time of 13:41, sophomore Sarah Armanovs came in 55th place with a time of 13:55, freshman Judy Wright came in 57th with a time of 13:58, Matthews came in 70th place with a time of 14:15, junior Elaine Franco came in 80th place with a time of 14:23, and Teller came in 99th place with a time of 14:43. The girls' success is attributed to months of grueling after-school workouts and an incredible love of the sport.
"The enormous amount of pride you feel once you achieve a goal - whether it's just finishing the two miles or beating a personal best - is tremendous," Matthews said. "Its unlike any other feeling."
Although both the girls' and Matt's performances at regional are achievements Port Aransas can be proud of, PAHS principal Travis Longanecker noticed a somewhat different aspect of their performance.
"I am so proud of not only the way they raced, but how they handled themselves as student athletes," Longanecker said. "The girls had a rough weekend, and may have expected more, but their sportsmanship was phenomenal."
Three members of the team will be graduating at the end of this year and will be leaving behind a single goal for the underclassmen to accomplish next year.
"It was a fabulous season, and we had a lot of young people who really stepped up," Matthews said. "We all ran as a team, which was our main goal, and although it was disappointing not qualifying for state, we created an incredible bond. It's a team I certainly won't forget."
Though the girls' team did not do as well as they would have liked, Reaves boasts his pride for his team and all they accomplished this season.
"This is the hardest sport I've had to coach," Reaves said. "You have to run to a point that seems crazy, and these girls and guys did it every day. I have nothing but respect for each one of them."
Dunton describes the sport slightly differently.
"Cross country is really straight forward. You have one goal you have to accomplish. You don't have to depend on anyone else," Dunton said. "You get to decide how well you do."