GRAND PRARIE — The Lady Panther varsity cross country team and the Van Alstyne cross country program runners made history after competing in the 2017 UIL 3A Region II Cross Country Championship hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington on Monday, Oct. 23 at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie. The Lady Panther cross country team added their own entry into the history of the premier sports program for Van Alstyne High School after taking fourth place overall in the womens 2-mile category. Jenna Leinart and Bryce Sevarino were the top runners for Van Alstyne after an outstanding performance at the 3A Region II championship competition.


“We made (Van Alstyne) history again this year,” Panther cross country head coach Rachel Sevarino said about the Lady Panthers cross country team advancing to the state level after making it into fourth place overall against top runners from schools such as White Oak, Troup, Mount Pleasant, Eustace, Pilot Point, and rival district schools such as Leonard and Farmersville to name a few.


“Our region is one of the hardest regions to get out of since the state winners usually come from our region.” Rachel Sevarino said. “This has been a great season.”


Van Alstyne High School junior Jenna Leinart highlighted the meet for the Lady Panthers, placing 12th in the women’s 2-mile with a time of 12:43.89. Junior G’Daiya Hall was not far behind in the 16th spot with a time of 12:54.84 and freshman Kate Carson finished 30th out of over 100 runners with a time of 13:13.80, while senior Emma Morgan clocked in 13:15.53 in 32nd place to beat out runners from rival schools despite being sick at time of competition.


Natalia Herrera finished the Region II competition with a time of 14:11.26 to lock in the 74th spot, senior Rachel Greve proved every fraction of a second counts, earning the 125th spot with a time of 15:17.95, while senior Faith Griffin finished in the 132th spot with a time of 15:34.57.


The Lady Panthers finished in fourth place overall with an average time of 13:10.11, behind Farmersville in third with 13:02.29, Pilot Point in second with 12:54.76 and Eustace taking the gold in first place with an average time of 12:50.13.


“The girls hold each other accountable and work really hard. They show up to practice and push themselves,” Rachel Sevarino said. “They are a competitive group of girls, so that helps them push and perform even better.”


Leinart will be joined in the state round by sophomore Panther runner Bryce Sevarino who took the 14th spot overall after qualifying for state with a time of 17:34.46 in the men’s 5K, finishing a full three seconds in front of the next runner. The individual Panther runners finished the regional competition strong with senior Daniel Morris finishing in the 45th spot with a time of 19:03.39, freshman Marcus Cooper finishing in 68th place with a time of 19:51.18 and freshman Jordan Caldwell finishing in the top 100 at the 97 spot with a time of 20:50.13.


The Panther cross country team finished in the top ten with an average time of 19:40.84 and a score of 305. The top four teams advancing to state are Pilot Point in first place with an average time of 17:07.49 and a score of 42 and Eustace in second with a score of 81. Whitesboro finished third with an average time of 17:39.61 and Commerce completed the top four with an average time of 18:41.98.


The Panther cross country program has indeed ran a long way since the beginning of the season when the Van Alstyne High School cross country program held an impressive 12-hour “Run-a-thon” fundraiser where the runners ran all night long to help the team compete in the 2017 season. For those who may not remember, each of the Panther runners took as many laps around the track as they could while holding a baton decorated with the inscription ‘Road 2 State,’ a reminder of the state championship competitions the team has been working towards all season in more ways than just training.


Be sure to follow the Panther cross country program at www.VanAlstyneLeader.com/Sports, as Sevarino, Leinart and The Lady Panthers advance to the state championships.


The Texas UIL 3A Region II and III Cross Country Championship meet is in Round Rock on Saturday, Nov. 4 with the Lady Panthers varsity team running at 1:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m., while Bryce Sevarino will be running for Van Alstyne in the individual boys 5K.


Additional reporting by Emma Polini.