As its season heads into the home stretch, the Jacksonville Fightin' Maiden Cross Country team has cobbled together a campaign of near perfection.
Head coach Anthony Harris' group of runners started the season off by winning the team championship in six-consecutive meets.
That impressive string came to end on Thursday when the Jacksonville girls finished in second place at the Lindale Eagle Invitational.
Unlike many other sports, the attainments of cross country athletes often go unseen by fans and supporters due to a timing issue.
With practices usually scheduled just after sunrise to avoid running in the hottest times of the day and many of the meets taking place early on Saturday mornings, it can be a challenge for fans to get out to the course to support the runners.
One can only imagine how difficult it must be for a teenage athlete to report to practice at 6 a.m.
It is not easy, but it is the life of a cross country runner.
“It takes dedication,” Lixsel Vega, a junior, and a member of the Fightin' Maiden cross country squad said in an interview last week. “We love running and competing against each other and it helps that we are all friends.
“Most of us have run together since middle school, so we know each other well and we have a special bond as teammates.”
Dayna Muñoz, one of three cousins, all juniors, on the team, offered her perspective.
“Cross country is fun and we take running serious,” she said. “It is a good feeling to see your time improve and get faster from one meet to the next.”
In one competition this season the Maidens achieved a perfect score of 15, after Jacksonville girls were the first five runners to cross the finish line.
Behind any good team is a good coach and Harris has built Jacksonville girls cross country into a regional power.
“Coach Harris is one of the most understanding and determined coaches you will find,” Reyna Muñoz, said. “We know that he gives us 100-percent of what he has, so we give him 100-percent of what we have.”
That sounds like a formula for success.