River Road’s Kiser, AHS’ McGill seek gold, glad teammates are along

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River Road’s Crawford Kiser, left, and Amarillo High’s Isaac McGill compete at the UIL state cross country meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on Friday. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

Amarillo High’s Isaac McGill and River Road’s Crawford Kiser definitely have their sights set on gold as the prize at the 2021 UIL state cross country meet.

But neither will be running it alone this year.

The two seniors – and their teammates – are along for the run Friday at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

River Road is making its first state team appearance in school history at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the Class 3A boys meet, then shortly after at 12:10 p.m., the AHS boys take the starting line for the Class 5A 3-mile run.

McGill is making his third appearance at state, the past two trips totally different.

“The last two years at state I came down with a friend and really couldn’t wait to get back,” McGill said the day before his final UIL cross country race. “This year I don’t want to go back. It’s been that good with the team here.”

This is Kiser’s third year to qualify for state cross country, finishing 7th last year as a junior and COVID cancelling his sophomore year at state.

Kiser said being a part of the first River Road team to advance to cross country “is a big deal. It’s been a longtime coming for us and a three-year process for us. So it’s nice to see it finally paying off and I get to be a part of it as well as my teammates.”

McGill recorded a ninth place finish last year at state. This year he is ranked second on the times coming in behind a familiar runner to him in Grapevine’s Walker St. John.

St. John is the defending 5A state champion and used what McGill calls “one of the best kicks in the nation” to capture the Region I-5A meet by passing McGill late winning by five seconds.

AHS coach Jacob Dawson said that’s why McGill’s race won’t really start until the final half mile.

“Isaac is a strategist on his own,” Dawson said. “Any experience he gets against those guys, is a learning tool for him on how to beat them the next time. Really, for Isaac the race for him won’t start until the last 800 meters because (St. John) has a really good kick. … it’s going to be a matter of holding his position and being strong and making strategic moves at the right time.”

McGill agrees with his coach and said lesson learned at regionals where he said he wasted valuable energy by yo-yoing back and forth for the lead.

“Hundred percent I learned from regionals,” McGill said. “I just ran that race very poorly. In my opinion I should have just stayed behind those guys instead of playing cat and mouse. I’d run in front of them then they’d run in front of me. I was just wasting energy the whole time.

“But I’ve never seen Walker that tired after a race. He’s never had to try that hard. So it was a confidence booster, really. Coming from Amarillo you never get to race against this level of guys.”

AHS coach Dawson said McGill is a rare breed when it comes to wanting to be the best.

“You see it occasionally with a particular athlete that just has the drive and knack to be good at whatever he wants to do,” Dawson said. “Isaac is ranked No. 2 in his class. It’s that drive not a lot of kids have. I think with Isaac it starts with really good parents who work hard and he has a great example there. When he wants to do something he wants to be the best at it. That’s what drives him to put in the miles with the intentionality he does it with.”

McGill said he focused to do whatever it takes to win a gold medal.

“It’s just running,” McGill said. “I know the only way to beat a kicker is wear them out. I’m definitely going to wear him out and if we wins utmost respect to him.

“I think we are the strongest two people in the meet. All I’m worried about is him. Whoever runs the smarter race is going to win. He’s a great competitor and won state last year. But I think I’m in one of the best spots at state, for sure.”

That’s exactly the sport where River Road’s Kiser is, too. Like McGill, his desire to is simply win. No matter how it looks.

“I mean it’s a championship race,” Kiser said. “ So time doesn’t matter. My goal is to win and I’m just going to win it. I don’t care about my time at all. My goal is to win.”

Kiser’s story is one of the guts to improve and not be dismayed by a slow start to his running career.

“To win or get on the medal stand would mean a lot to me because of where I’ve come from,” Kiser said. “I remember quitting football because I thinking I might be good at cross country so I’m going all in on this. My freshman year I didn’t even qualify for regionals. So it’s been a long time coming for me so it definitely would mean a lot.”

After last year placing 7th, Kiser upped his weekly mileage to a strong 55 miles, sometime reaching 70 miles.

“I’m really going in not worrying about any particular kid and just running my race and whoever wins it, wins it,” Kiser said. “I’m going to sit on whoever is in first place. “I’m going to stay calm about it and just stay focused. In the end it’s just a race. That’s how I’m thinking about it.”

River Road is coached by Derek Henderson and joining Kiser are Wildcats Christian Rosales, Garrett Furman, Armando Flores, Jacob Bell and Andres Rodriguez.

“They have out in the miles, too,” Kiser said. “It’s good see there hard work is being rewarded.”

Joining McGill for Amarillo High will be Jonathan Holloway, Cooper Clawson, Jerin Perkins, Parker Maybin, Miles Cox and Noah Watt.

“This is great for the younger guys to see this event and experience it,” Dawson said. “Obviously, it could light a fire under some of the younger ones who get to be a part of something. I also think it’s an advantage bringing everyone here where we can strategically place around the course and cheer on our guys.

“With it being the last race of the year for a guy like Isaac, and all of us, there is a still a strategy that goes into it. But at the end of the day there is nothing after this race. Like, this is it. So regardless how you feel, you have to figure it out. Just trust your training and work has paid off.”

UIL state cross country championship

At Old Settlers Park, Round Rock

Friday’s schedule

Class 1A

Girls: 8:30 a.m.

Boys: 9 a.m.

Class 3A

Girls: 10 a.m.

Boys: 10:30 a.m.

Class 5A

Girls: 11:30 a.m.

Boys: 12:10 a.m.

Saturday’s schedule

Class 2A

Girls: 8:30 a.m.

Boys: 9 a.m.

Class 4A

Girls: 10 a.m.

Boys: 10:30 a.m.

Class 6A

Girls: 11:30 a.m.

Boys: 12:10 a.m.

Texas Panhandle UIL state boys team and individual competitors

Class 5A

Team: Amarillo High

Individuals: Emilio Salas, Tascosa, Jr.

Class 4A

Team: Canyon

Individuals: Noah Williams, Dumas, So.

Class 3A

Team: River Road

Individuals: Hugo Briones, Tulia, Jr.; Azariah Gonzales, Dimmitt, Sr.; Ethan Ramos, Spearman, Sr.; Azariah Gonzales, Dimmitt, Sr.

Class 2A

Individuals: Zahir Loya, Sunray, So; Ryder Robison, Memphis, So.

Class 1A

Teams: Texline, Booker

Individuals: Alex Acevedo, Silverton, So.; Bryson Brockman, Nazareth, So.; Landon Flowers, Happy, Jr.; Gus Fields, Happy, Sr.; Hunter Lovell, Claude, So.

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