ROUND ROCK — Van Alstyne senior Evan McQuirk capped his career by winning the Class 2A boys state cross-country title on Saturday morning at Old Settlers Park.
"I was so blessed to win. It was a surreal moment for me," McQuirk said. "I ended up taking the lead about a mile and a half into the race and it was still pretty close. I was trying to keep extending the lead as much as I could."
McQuirk, who was the Region II champion and had the top qualifying time, won with a time of 16:03.79. He finished nearly seven seconds ahead of East Bernard’s Wyatt Kieler and 10 seconds ahead of Dilley’s James Rodriguez.
"I knew I was going to have to work for it," McQuirk said. "It was pretty tough, especially the last half of the race."
It was the third time a Texoma male athlete has won a state cross-country title, joining Anna’s Cody Hughes in 2006 and Trenton’s Luis Verde in 1991. It’s the sixth individual state championship for an area athlete in cross-country.
After finishing 46th in 18:06.60 at state last year when McQuirk ran with a stress fracture in his left foot, he returned healthy and poised to claim the state championship.
"It felt so good after remembering last season," McQuirk said. "I started training even harder."
Whitesboro senior Grant Butts finished just outside the top 10 with an 11th-place finish in 16:44.83 to help lead the Bearcats to seventh in the team standings in their first trip to the state meet. Sophomore Nic Butts was 30th at 17:13.49, junior Austin Pulley was 39th in 17:27.44 senior Drew Chandley (18:41.84) took 77th, junior Noel Galan (19:02.88) was 88th, senior Andrew Knowlton (19:06.02) was two spots back and senior Cody Woolsey (20:50.48) was 105th.
In the girls race, Van Alstyne junior Molly McQuirk was 12th in a time of 12:17.54, improving over her 28th-place finish a year ago, while Leonard sophomore Chelsea Brockus was 14th at 12:22.42, an improvement over 26th place from 2012. Van Alstyne freshman Hannah Taylor placed 60th in 13:13.35.
In Class 3A, Melissa senior Ashley New was eighth in 11:59.90 and earned all-state honors as she paced the Lady Cardinals to fifth in the standings, improving over their ninth-place finish last fall. Melissa was just eight points from earning the bronze.
Senior Jackii Thomas was 26th in 12:21.00, junior Kambri Gabel (12:33.34) was 44th, junior Sophie Bennett was right behind in 12:34.00, junior Kailey Burton (12:48.28) placed 59th, freshman Megan Brown (13:20.95) was 89th and Ambriana Ricks (15:24.12) was 106th.
Anna sophomore Courtnie Hughes finished 34th in a time of 12:25.33.
On the boys side, Melissa junior Trace Greer was 52nd at 17:46.31.
In the Class 1A boys race, Trenton’s Andrew Holland was 42nd at 18:05.15 and teammate Tyler Connelly placed 81st with a time of 19:18.48.
On the girls side, Blue Ridge junior Natalie Pyle placed 56th with a time of 13:14.42.