The Duncan Banner
Velma-Alma dominated on its own course Saturday in the Class 2A boys and girls regional cross country races.
Sophomore Ty Hobbs and junior Russell Butler crushed the competition to finish one-two atop the leaderboard. Butler’s performance meant a lot to the team as the freshman has gotten better with every race.
“Last year, coming into being a high schooler, I thought I’d be our fifth man,” Butler said after finishing. “Now, I’m our second and sometimes our first. I never dreamed I would be doing this good.”
Butler went from running a 21-minute time to open the year to finishing with an 18-minute time Saturday. That vast improvement has meant a lot to a team that has turned into one of the favorites for the 2A Class state title. Coach Jerry Loveall expressed his enthusiasm about the high finishes after the race.
“As long as you qualify, you’re there, but it is nice to be able to win a regional championship,” Loveall said.
Caitlin Wright led the girls team, which won in a much more difficult field. Wright finished in the top five, but two of her teammates also finished in the top 15. It was a breakthrough race for Wright as she hadn’t been running as well as she did in the past.
“I’ve been so discouraged because I haven’t really ran the best that I did last year,” Wright said. “Last year, we barely went to state and, this year, we won regionals. So it just pumps us up for state so we feel like we can actually go win or do our very best.”
Running their best times of the year was the Comets’ goal from the beginning. Now that they are in the state race, Loveall is exubrant about how far the runners have come.
“You start out and it’s hot,” Loveall said. “You know you’re not running your best. They’ll tell you ‘I’m not in very good shape,’ that kind of stuff. They’ll improve as the year goes on and it just kind of snowballs as they get to feel better and better about themselves.”