By Sean Shapiro / Special Contributor
ROUND ROCK — Jesuit’s Connor O’Neill finished well to run fifth overall at the Class 6A state cross country meet on Saturday at a muddy Old Settlers Park.
The junior completed the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 28.8 seconds, which was about 11 seconds behind individual champion Daniel Golden from The Woodlands, who was the only runner to top O’Neill at the Region II meet in late October.
As a team, the Rangers placed 12th in their first collective appearance at the state meet, with The Woodlands also claiming the team crown. The next best finish for Jesuit was Connor Garvey in 100th place in the highly competitive field.
With rain on Friday evening and into late Saturday morning combined with nearly 1,800 runners across six classifications, the course turned into a mud pit, which left a couple runners finishing the race in socks after losing their shoes.
Those who finished the race where covered in mud from head to toe. It looked like a scene out of “Survivor” or perhaps the most extreme laundry detergent commercial you could imagine — some of those stains, yeah, they aren’t coming out.
It also changed the speed of the race. Everyone was slower running through what felt like wet sand in a hurricane. The leaders where closer to the middle of the pack, while those at the back of the race had to endure continuously worsening conditions and risked having mud flown in their faces.
“You’re going to get muddy, so might as well run as fast as you can through it,” O’Neill said. “It sucked, but if you had the right approach it went well.”
O’Neill’s finish was the best in school history for a Jesuit runner at the state meet. A year ago, he snapped a nine-year drought for the Rangers by qualifying for state, where he crossed the line in 47th position.