Still nearly nine months from her 16th birthday, Huffman-Hargrave sophomore Emmy Nolte has established herself as the de facto runner to beat in Region 3-4A.
With Fairfield runners Madison Smith and Morgan Coleman off to college, Nolte now enters a likely top three competition for the Region 3 title with Lufkin Hudson's sophomore Kayleigh Wagnon and Fairfield junior Jarahle Daniels. Wagnon returns as the defending champ with a two mile time of 12:19.50, just seconds ahead of Nolte.
Nolte would go on to place 38th at the 4A state meet last November.
"My goals for this year is to win district again, progress my times to get lower, and to get a top 2 at regionals," said Nolte.
"I also want to help my team place every time and to have a top 15 finish at state."
Nolte came out of the gate in 2018 as a legitimate force in the two mile as she took a 14th place at the Region 3 Preview meet in early September, her second ever varsity race. She would go on to take 5th place at the Ennis Lions Den Invitational and the district title two weeks later.
Her confidence was peaking as she would run her best ever time of 12:27.95 at the Region 3 meet. She was ready for state.
"I was very nervous going into that race," said Nolte.
"Not only because it was a state meet but there was a lot of competition on our team to see who was going to have the top finish. In the end I was happy with my finish."
Nolte will begin her 2019 season this weekend as the Lady Falcons travel to Huntsville to compete in the "Region 3 Preview" meet.
The Hargrave Cross Country machine continues into 2019 as Kris Gilmore's boys squad reloads with top runner Peyton Pluenneke leading the way towards another dominating district season.
The last time a Falcons boys cross country team did not win a district title was 2009. There seems to be no let up in the talent that churns through the Hargrave halls of success.
"Our goal is to finish higher at regionals this year," said Gilmore, entering his 13th year as Hargrave's cross country coach.
"We have a fairly weak region so we should be fine as far as qualifying (for state)." Hargrave will challenge defending regional champion Palestine and Lufkin Hudson for top honors in October.
Hillsboro will also be a top threat for the Region 3 title.
"Our kids talk about winning regionals this year. That's definitely a goal of ours," said Gilmore.
Along with the senior Pluenneke, a bona fide top 10 state contender, the Hawks also bring 2022 runners Mason Purswell and twins Austin and Logan Tinsley
"We have three really good sophomores who run extremely hard," said Gilmore.
"As a coach I'm challenged trying to coach these kids that you don't have to go all out every time. We have to learn balance when it comes to our workouts."
"We have a great group of runners this year," said Gilmore.
"I can't even tell you who my top seven are now because of all the possibilities."
The goal for the team is to peak in late October as the regional meet moves into the state meet.
"We have to understand that running is a journey," said Gilmore.
"Peaking is the sense of working your way up slowly and not navigating these 'mountains' where you go up and come down with your times."