By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Last Saturday, Sept. 9, Salmon Lake Park was packed and no, the Bluegrass Festival had not extended the festivities for another week. This week, cross country runners from over 25 area schools descended on the park to run the course set up around the lake’s perimeter and according to the coaches and athletes in attendance, the event went off without a hitch.

“It was a tremendously well-run meet, I thought,” Grapeland cross country coach Anthony DeCello said after the meet concluded.

“It wasn’t just me,” he stressed. “I just organized it and put people where I felt they needed to be. (Latexo cross country) Coach (Jessica) Cutshall was an amazing help to me. (Former Grapeland cross country) Coach (Brian) Cooper was also amazing help. Those two helped me get the meet ready and told me what I needed to do. (Asst. cross country coach) Erica (Gros) was amazing with the paperwork and we had so many volunteers who came out and helped around the course to make it easy for the kids to just come out and run. The participants were also super.”

DeCello said he had tried to invite as many schools as possible to attend because so many had to cancel their meets the previous week because of Hurricane Harvey.

“We had 11 schools when we first started and by late last week we were up to about 26 schools. A lot of them were last minute but we wanted to accommodate them because we didn’t want to leave someone out that would miss a meet. We wanted to do well so the teams would want to come back. The help I got from all the people – this was my first time to organize a meet. I realized just how much work goes into this. To try and do it by yourself is overwhelming.”

He said Latexo’s Cutshall came out two straight days to go around the course and provide tips on various items.

“I talked to Coach Cooper everyday – day after day. We painted the course until 11 p.m. the night before the race because he thought it needed more paint on it and he was right. I was excited. We got good reviews on it. The coaches and the runners told us that they liked the course and that it was well run. Everyone pitched in and I thought it was a fun event for the Grapeland community,” he added.

As far as the results from the meet, the Grapeland Sandiettes placed second as a team.

“For their first meet, I thought we did really well,” he said. “We have some things we need to work on and some times we need to improve upon. We missed out on our first meet because of the hurricane and like I told them I don’t want your first meet to be your best time. We have to keep going and peak when we need to.”

On the girls’ side of the course, the Grapeland Sandiettes finished second as a team with 106 points. Individually, Latexo’s Maddie Kelsey finished fourth overall, with a time of 13:25 while Grapeland’s Hannah Chipman was sixth, with a time of 13:41 and Kenya woods was eighth with a time of 13:45.19.

For the boys, Slocum Mustang Travis Neal won the individual race with a time of 16:39. Latexo’s Tristan Curless was third with a time of 17:07.66 and Carter Catoe was 11th with a time of 17:52.

The Hudson Hornets and Lady Hornets won both the boys and girls team titles.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.