DALLAS — Cleburne senior Maggie Marshall crossed the finish line in seventh place to qualify for the UIL cross country state meet for the second consecutive year.
Marshall’s time of 18:42 placed her in the top-10 among individual runners at Monday’s Class 5A Region II championship held at the Jesse Owens Memorial Complex in Dallas. There were 24 teams and 173 runners on the course in the 5A girls’ three-mile race.
After taking first place individually at the District 14-5A championship earlier this month for her first district title in a stellar four-year career, Marshall is now headed back to state looking to improve on her 20th overall finish a year ago.
“Words can’t express how incredibly proud I am of Maggie on her season and making back-to-back state appearances,” Cleburne coach Alicia Johnson said. “Maggie’s work ethic is like no other. Her dedication, self-motivation, and determination are phenomenal. Maggie ‘gets it.’ She knows what it takes to be a state qualifier and shows up to practice every day with that goal in mind. She has run strong and determined all year long, and her performance at district and regionals shows just how determined she is. You always want to go out with a bang, and that is exactly what Maggie is doing. To say I’m proud of her would be an understatement.”
The Lady Jackets, who advanced to the regional contest as a team following their third-place finish at the District 14-5A meet on Oct. 17, finished in 16th place in the team standings at Monday’s competitive regional meet.
Cleburne’s racing lineup included junior Maria Juarez, sophomore Aliya Carrizales, senior Morgan Brinkley, freshman Karman Wright and Trinity Granger. Carrizales, in her first season in cross country, along with Brinkley and Juarez, all posted new personal bests at Monday’s regional meet.
Carrizales placed 59th with a personal-best time of 20:51, Wright finished 101st with a time of 21:51, Brinkley posted a personal-best time of 22:40, and Juarez ran a personal-best time of 22:51.
“I am extremely proud of the girls and the season they had,” Johnson said. “Qualifying as a team for regionals is always the goal and is a huge accomplishment, but to qualify as a team with only two returning runners and the other five runners never having competed in a high school cross country meet says a lot about the dedication and commitment these girls have for the sport and each other.
“They showed up every day for practice with a positive attitude and put in the work. At the district meet they put their team before their individual comfort and got the job done. Over the course of the season, I watched these girls go from being teammates to being a family, and that kind of bond is truly special. Every girl had a great season, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Moments after crossing the finish line at Monday’s regional competition, Marshall voiced her excitement in the opportunity to compete at the state meet for a second time, in her final year of high school cross country.
“I feel good and am super excited,” Marshall said. “It was definitely a fast pace today. The course was not too hilly, really pretty flat. It was great to be at regionals competing as a team again this year.
“The goal today was to run fast and run strong, with the end goal to get to state no matter where I placed — as long as it was in the top-10. And that’s what I did. This is my last year to compete and I’m very excited to be going back to state.”
As she prepares for the final meet of her season, Marshall will be returning to a course familiar to her. As a 2018 state competitor, she finished in the 20th position among 5A runners from across Texas. The 2019 state meet is scheduled for Nov. 9 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, with the 5A girls race set for 1:10 p.m.
Her plan between now and then is to remain consistent in her training, following a regimen she has held to since she adopted the sport in middle school. While she may not be superstitious, she has worn the same set of socks — laundered between races — since the 2019 season began.
“This year, I’ve experienced a couple of tweaks when it came to my body, but I believe you’ve got to keep plugging forward,” Marshall said. “I try to do all I can to take care of myself and make sure I’m healthy. I’ll keep training, eating right, getting the right amount of sleep, lifting — all those things that will come together and come into play in running a good state meet.”
Johnson said Marshall’s second state appearance — in her final race — is the result of countless hours and miles of work.
“The state meet is her very last cross country meet she will run in high school, and what a bittersweet race it will be,” Johnson said. “She has run a lot of miles, sacrificed a lot of time, and dedicated herself to the sport and the demand it requires. When Maggie toes the line for the last time as a Lady Jacket, my hopes are for her to leave everything out on the course, to embrace the moment, enjoy her last race, finish with courage, and to hold her head high. Maggie has accomplished quite a bit in her time as a Lady Jacket, and she has so much to be proud of.”
As the cross country season winds down, Marshall will be racing with the Jackets again in the spring as a competitor in the distance events for track season.