By KBEC Sports | Contributions from Life Schools
The Life Waxahachie Lady Mustang cross-country team recently made program history with its first-ever top-ten finish at the 4A state meet.
The Lady Mustangs ultimately placed fifth on Nov. 24 at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.
Life Waxahachie’s impressive fifth-place finish bested eight teams in the field represented by 48 statewide schools, as only three teams from each of the state’s four regions qualify for the state meet.
“Our training for the two weeks before state was about making sure everyone was as healthy as possible and that all the work they had put in throughout the season could be showcased,” said Life Waxahachie head cross country coach Daniel Dagen.
The Lady Mustangs were once again led by sophomore Charzell Williams, who made her state-meet debut in 2019.
Williams finished just over 26 seconds behind 4A state champion Adele Clark of Celina (11:31.04) in the two-mile race. Her 11:57.91 time was also only a little over seven seconds from a top-five finish, which went to Abigail Bass of Melissa (11:50.13).
“Charzell had the benefit of experience considering she was the only one that ran at the state meet before,” Dagen explained. “One thing I am most proud of is how she responded from last year’s race. She was in seventh or eighth place with a quarter-mile left and ended up getting passed up by several runners at the end [in 2019].”
“[…] Over this last year, she focused on and trained to have a better finish to the race. It was great to see her come around the corner to the finish and pass up a girl at the end to get that sixth-place finish. It was sweet redemption after what happened last year.”
In addition to Williams, the Lady Mustang roster featured two freshmen and two juniors. Each had previously contributed to the team’s seven-meet winning streak, District 11-4A title and third-place finish in the 4A Region II championship.
Freshmen Jordynn West and Emeri Adames both placed in the top-20 at the 4A state meet, with West placing 16th (12:26.68) and Adames 19th (12:31.11) out of 122 runners.
Evelyn Rodriguez placed 69th (13:24.23) and Kamilah Rodrigues finished 114th (13:24.23) to complete the Lady Mustangs’ team scoring.
Life Waxahachie ultimately finished with 123 team points, which is the sum of the placing of the team’s top-five finishers.
Canyon won the 4A state championship with 68 points. The Lady Eagles were followed by Celina (74), Kaufman (121), Bandera (142) and Life Waxahachie.
Natacia Ruiz and Kimber Tolliver also competed in the state championship meet for Life Waxahachie, crossing the line in 15:44.79 and 15:44.93, respectively.
“This was an exceptional season for the Lady Mustangs,” stated Scott Thrush, Life School’s Athletic Director. “The coaching staff, as well as our girls, showed resilience throughout the entire year and overcame any and all obstacles that tried to slow them down.”
Thrush also pointed to Dagen’s leadership as a key element to the team’s success.
“Coach Dagan’s coaching style was perfect for this young group of Lady Mustangs,” Thrush explained. “He is the ideal combination of truth and grace mixed in with a tremendous amount of patience. He loves the student-athletes he coaches and builds special relationships with them, and in turn, they give it their very best in each and every race.”
He added, “We are very excited about the next few years and watching our Lady Mustangs continue to work hard on getting their times down and hopefully get back to State for another chance at a state championship.”
Dagen agreed, noting that this year’s team was blessed to only have a few minor hiccups related to COVID protocols and injury along the way. His lone goal for the 2021 cross-country season is to faithfully coach those who show up to compete each day.
“My expectation for next year is that we will have fun and I will be blessed to coach whoever shows up to be his or her best each and every day,” Dagen said. T”hat’s my expectation and the rest is just icing.
“[…] I’m so proud of [this] season overall and the way they bonded as a team. These are memories that will last and will motivate them going forward. My goal for them going in was to be fifth place and they did just that.”
Chelsea Groomer/Life Schools contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.