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Lion’s Den Invitational reaches new heights on tenth anniversary

Varsity girls come up big on their home turf
The tenth annual Lion’s Den Invitational cross-country meet drew runners from every corner of North and East Texas on Saturday morning at Jaycee Park.
All told, 36 teams made the trip as the 2008 event was easily the largest meet ever hosted by coach Lonnie Redning and Ennis High. There were 804 official participants spanning eight divisions. Last year’s Ennis meet was no slouch with 25 teams in attendance.
“Coaches love our course out at Jaycee Park; it has a fast section with flat straightaways by the lake, as well as the challenge presented by the hill on the backside,” Redning said.
“Kids from other towns named the hill ‘The Monster’ last year and it stuck. I’m sad that we can’t compete where we practice most often – at the high school, but it’s nice that we have a challenging course and the city has embraced us at Jaycee Park.”
The coach said there were some parking issues to deal with, so he’ll either look to restrict the number of teams to 30 next year or possibly hold a 4A-5A meet along with a separate 1A-3A meet – something Redning had seen Flower Mound Marcus do.
“Our location is great for drawing teams to the meet; Ennis is just south of Dallas and we also draw a lot of the smaller schools around here.”
Junior High Boys
The junior high boys’ division saw 166 participants traverse the course. Ennis had a pair of runners as Trent Graham (13:18) placed fourteenth and Evan Fry (16:48) was the hundredth runner to finish. The team from Cedar Hill Permenter took first place.
“Here’s another Graham coming through the school system,” Redning said after having Mackenzie and Morgan Graham compete on his teams.
“It was his first-ever meet and Trent is learning as he goes. He had a tough start and came on strong at the end. In another meet or two, he’ll be up there getting medals.”
JV Boys
Looking to the JV boys’ division, the top-three Ennis competitors included Chaz Kozlovsky (22:22) in forty-eighth place, Eduardo Ramirez (22:24) at fiftieth and Milton Guerrero (22:38) at fifty-second.
“Chaz has been one of the most consistent JV kids we’ve had,” Redning said.
“He’s trying to get his time down as a first-year runner and is putting some miles on his legs. He’s at 22:22 right now and should be able to work his way under 21:00 by season’s end. Soccer guys like Eduardo have been helping the team this year.
“He really gives great effort and we’re working on his form as a runner. This is Milton’s second-ever race and he really dropped his time down from the last meet. He’s doing a great job as he works into better shape.”
Tyler Lee won the JV boys’ division, while Ennis placed seventh.
Varsity Boys
Ovilla Christian won the varsity boys’ 1A-3A division, narrowly topping Canton.
Kevin Montemayor ran a great race for Ennis in the varsity boys’ 4A-5A division to place fourteenth (18:07). Other top Ennis competitors included Tyler Hobbs (19:28) in thirty-second place and Ben Skroh (19:41) at thirty-eighth. Tyler Lee won the division as Ennis finished just behind Tyler John Tyler in eighth.
“Kevin ran about the best race he could’ve hoped for this week,” Redning said.
“He spent most of the race in roughly the seventh spot before the last mile gave him some trouble. The important thing is that Kevin has been consistent this season in his times. As hard as our course is, an 18:07 is pretty good.”
Montemayor was certainly just behind a pack of runners considering he was only nine seconds out of eighth place. As for Hobbs, Redning said some of the other runners on the team talked Tyler into joining them to help him prepare for baseball season.
“I think he likes [cross-country] and is very competitive, which helps Tyler at the end of the race,” the coach said.
“Tyler has been big for us to become our No. 3 runner. Ben is our senior and he’s really driven to succeed. He’s working hard and is an important source of leadership for the team.”
Regarding the big picture, Redning said Ennis could’ve potentially finished fourth or fifth as a team with the services of No. 2 runner J.T. Florence. He figures to provide a big boost for the varsity boys at future meets.
“We were close to John Tyler and Arlington Bowie – two bigger schools – and we didn’t get blown out of the water by Red Oak,” Redning said.
“We’re off from where I wish we were right now, but all in all we’re coming along pretty good and our times are dropping.”
Junior High Girls
As for the junior high girls’ division, Selena Diaz (14:15) did a great job to earn a medal and finish ninth overall out of 197 runners. Other top Lady Lions included Belle Nelson (15:52) at thirtieth, fifth grader Taylor Selvera (15:57) at thirty-second and Meredith Velazquez (16:14) in thirty-eighth place.
“Selena runs with us after volleyball a couple of days a week and she’s just an athlete,” Redning said.
“Her 14:15 is pretty strong considering she’s involved in more than one sport. She could be a great runner for our varsity program one day if she really focuses in on it. Belle is a tennis kid who came out looking to get in better shape.
“She’s a good, strong runner who makes time to get her practice in. Meredith’s sister Anna is on JV and this wasn’t bad for her first experience at a meet.”
As for youngster Selvera, she didn’t run like an elementary student in beating 165 junior high participants.
“Taylor wanted to run in the junior high division and we might look at adding an elementary division to this meet in the future,” Redning said.
“It would really give young runners a head start as they get set to enter junior high. Taylor was so excited to see that she finished ahead of 165 junior high girls and she has a bright future. She’s another one of our many soccer players involved in cross-country.”
Taylor’s big sister, Tori Selvera, competed in the varsity division and was very proud of the younger runner.
“For my sister being 10, she did very well in her race,” Tori said.
“If she keeps practicing hard, she’ll be really good one day.”
Overall, Canton won the junior high girls’ division and Ennis just edged out Red Oak for fifth place.
“We finished fifth and it was the first time all of these girls have run a two-mile race,” Redning said.
“They fared well against all the junior high teams in our district, finishing only behind Cedar Hill Coleman.”
JV Girls
In the JV girls’ division, top Ennis competitors included Miranda Montemayor (15:26) at twentieth, Ireri Hernandez (15:31) at twenty-fourth and Stefany Cantu (15:43) at twenty-eighth.
“Miranda is doing a solid job, but she has the ability to be much better as she works into good shape,” Redning said.
“She can cut a minute off her 15:26 if she works at it. Ireri and Stefany are coming along too; I just have high expectations for those three and they’re working at it.”
Overall, Tyler Lee won the division as Ennis finished comfortably ahead of Arlington Seguin for sixth place.
“Several of the girls have been struggling with allergies, so they weren’t able to run their best race,” Redning said.
“Otherwise we probably work our way up to fourth or fifth.”
Varsity Girls
Regarding the varsity girls’ 1A-3A division, Kaufman took home first place by a wide margin. The highlight of the meet for Ennis would definitely have to be the varsity girls’ 4A-5A division, where all seven Lady Lions to compete finished in the top 29. Freshman Tori Selvera took home a medal with an outstanding effort (12:40) to earn fourth place out of 55 runners.
“The race went pretty well for me, but I felt like I could do better,” Selvera said.
“I made the mistake of starting on the inside and I got bunched in for a while. I was okay with fourth, but definitely felt like I could’ve finished first or second. We were really excited about the way [the varsity girls] ran to get everybody in the top 30.”
“After the leaders got away from Tori a little bit early, she had to work her way back into the top group and did battle well when she got there,” Redning added.
“Tori ran a good race and looked stronger at the finish than she has in the past. All of the girls who finished ahead of her were older. Tori practices with us twice a week, but her times will come down as she works with us more in preparation for the district meet.”
Fellow freshman Chelsea Raburn also had a stellar showing (13:27) to finish eleventh.
“Nearly all of our times improved, so I think that’s really good to see,” Raburn said.
“It was the best our team has done at a meet so far and it’s good to know that we’re getting better as the season goes on. It’s an honor to compete on varsity as a freshman and I think we’ll definitely get better with each year.
“Coach Redning really helped us improve back in junior high. I just want to keep practicing hard and give my all at the meets.”
“Chelsea is a really good runner who’s been working hard and we try to work together in practice,” Selvera added.
Redning sees a lot of potential in Raburn and believes she may be able to crack the top 10 when the district meet rolls around.
“Chelsea was disappointed with eleventh as she just missed out on a medal, but she was happy to drop her time two seconds on a hard course,” Redning said.
Other varsity Lady Lions to finish among the top 29 included Alex Montemayor (13:53) in nineteenth, Victoria Santos (13:57) in twenty-first, Alexis Zambrano (14:21) in twenty-seventh, Calleigh Morales (14:31) in twenty-eighth and Meghan Holy (14:32) in twenty-ninth.
“Alex is coming along and her times are starting to drop,” Redning said.
“She’s a soccer kid who’s learning how to run and it’s good to see her get under 14 [minutes] on a tough course. Vicky finally ran the race I thought she was capable of and is feeling better after being ill for a while. She helped us get four runners in [compared] to Waxahachie’s three at that point.
“Alexis has really been improving, so I expected her to do pretty well. Calleigh and Meghan had been under the weather, but they ran hard and only lost a few seconds off their times the week before. Their times were actually a little better than I expected under the circumstances.”
Overall, Waxahachie won the division and Ennis wasn’t far behind in third place.
“We’re stacking up pretty well with the other district schools as far as varsity girls and also faring well against some of those bigger schools,” Redning said.
“We really performed a lot better compared to Red Oak than in years past.”
Next up on the schedule
Ennis will now head to Fairfield for the Eagle Invitational on Saturday.
“We’re going to Fairfield this week and the kids love it because the course is all within the woods, which means I can’t coach them during the race,” Redning said.
“We’ll see a lot of regional teams from East Texas. I think we’ll do well and come home with a few more medals.”

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Posted by on Sep 30 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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