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Tunningley wins Cross Country State Championship

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By Alonzo Garza
POST-REGISTER

It was hot at Old Settler’s Park during the State Championship meet in Round Rock on Saturday Nov. 10. It was hot enough for at least two runners to collapse during their races and be sent to the hospital. The runners were eventually released, but the heat continued to plague most of the spectators at the meet.
Fortunately,

the rain saw fit to cool down the 4A Boys Cross Country runners with a brief shower just before the start of the race. It was as if the boys were being sprayed just enough to keep their bodies cool to complete the final race of the meet.
And what a race it turned out to be.
Extraordinary character and triumph of spirit was exhibited by all the runners that participated in meet, but none of the runners came close to outdoing themselves as much as Lockhart senior Rory Tunningley did in the last leg of the last race of his high school cross country career.
Tunningley outdid all of his previous efforts in what was one of the most dramatic finishes ever seen at the UIL State Cross Country Championships and captured the Class AAAA boys race win and the gold medal that went with it.
“In 30-some years of watching cross country races, this was one of the most dramatic ‘come-from-behind’ wins I have ever seen,” Head Coach Scott Hippensteel said.
With only three quarters of a mile left in the race, Tunningley had fallen behind about 50 meters with Alex De La Garza of Mercedes in the lead.
De La Garza had lost a very competitive race to Tunningley by a mere 11 seconds a week before at the Regional meet at San Antonio and it looked like at the state race De La Garza would not be denied.
Tunningley, who had been running 70 to 80 miles a week since last year’s state meet, would have none of it. He mustered up all of his reserves and battled back to cut the lead to just 30 meters with a quarter-mile to left.
As the two determined runners started up the final hill with less than 200 meters to go, Tunningley pushed and drew within 10 meters and then made one final “all in” charge at De La Garza. Tunningley pulled in and raced even with less than 50 meters in the race.
As Tunningley passed his worthy competitor, De La Garza, helplessly spent, could do nothing but watch as Tunningley sprinted past the finish line to claim the State Championship.
Tunningley ran the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course in the fourth-fastest time ever run by a Class AAAA runner in the State meet. His time of 15:19.25 was the second-fastest time to be run at Old Settler’s Park since the first race there in 1997.
De La Garza barely held on to capture second place with Zach Dawson of Big Spring finishing third, only five one hundredth of a second behind him. De La Garza finished in 15:23.00.
Tunningley is the second Lockhart runner in the last four years to win the individual State Championship. Chris West won the 2004 State Title with a time of 15:20.75. West now holds the fifth-fastest time ever run in class AAAA.
Lockhart distance runners Tommy Bonn and Jason Gould finished as State Runners-Up in 1991 and 2000. A runner from Lockhart has finished first or second four times in the last eight Cross Country State Championships.
With Tunningley’s victory, Lockhart distance runners have now won eight State Championships since 1998. Lockhart Track and Cross Country athletes have captured nine individual State Championships and 17 State Runners-up since 1992.

agarza@post-register.com

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