RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
One of the top runners on the Randolph varsity cross country team is freshman Elena Gumbs, but she's getting help from a trio of seniors.
Gumbs has been slicing 15 to 20 seconds off her times during the first four meets, and she could be a catalyst for a berth in the regionals or at the state meet at Austin.
"Elena runs around a 13:05 over the two-mile course, at this point," said Edward Padilla, Randolph Ro-Hawks cross country coach. "She and some of the other younger runners were not part of the varsity last year, so we didn't know how good they might be."
Mark Hopkins is the top boys' runner, dividing the remainder of his athletics time between football and basketball during each school year. His senior year has begun impressively with high production on the gridiron, thus far, and times around 18:30 over a five-kilometer cross country route.
"Mark gets to work out with us twice a week and he's really busy with all of the sports he's involved in," Padilla said. "Chris Crabbe is running around a 19:45 pace and we think that, as a team, should be able to be first or second when the district races roll around."
Last season was the first time in Padilla's four-year tenure as coach that Randolph made it as far as the postseason regional meet. Several Ro-Hawk runners had made it to regionals individually, but last season's breakthrough served to lift up the program.
"We lost a lot of those good runners but the new people are inspired to go out and achieve success, too," Padilla said. "We've got another good senior runner - Tamoya Morrison - who brings a lot to meets and we're learning what it takes to be consistently competitive."
Last week's Six Flags Classic meet, at Brooks City Base, gave the Ro-Hawks a look at the layout for this weekend's University of Texas-San Antonio-sponsored meet. The route will be changed, but the Brooks site is one that is used for several races each season.
The Randolph runners will participate in a total of eight meets during the regular season, with the District 27-2A gathering to be hosted in November by Comfort High.