Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Top-10 finish is payoff for Lake Highlands senior at 5A Region II cross country
ARLINGTON - A year ago, Meron Fessahaie skipped the awards ceremony. He left Vandergriff Park immediately after his disappointing regional race.
"It was a sad bus ride home," said Fessahaie, a Lake Highlands runner.
He had finished 29th, far from his goal. On Saturday at the Class 5A Region II Championships, he was eighth. Nick Hager of Rowlett stood on the stage nearby at the award ceremony; he finished fourth, 35 spots better than last year.
The day was a culmination of their change, about qualifying for state as seniors and about how far they had come.
Really, the entire season has been like that. Hager has won multiple races, including the District 10-5A championship. And it's been that way for Fessahaie as well. He won District 9-5A last week.
This is how he envisioned his senior season. This is what he wanted. When he left Vandergriff Park a year ago, he realized what he needed to do to become a complete runner.
"Last year it was all talent," Fessahaie said. "I didn't put in that much work for it, but this year I put in the work."
At the 4A level, area teams experienced similar progress. Highland Park won the boys team event, dominating with a score of 63. It was the second year in a row the team had qualified for state but only the second time the Scots had made it since 2002.
Their team is a collection of multisport athletes bound by a desire to excel at running. Two of the runners play soccer, another lacrosse. Philip Todd, who finished second overall, played football until switching to cross country last fall.
"I just came out and kind of did practices," he said, "but after that season I kind of dedicated myself to it."
The Scots girls won the regional as well, continuing their reign as one of the area's top teams. Natalie Rathjen led the team with a first-place finish, and Jenna Read came in third.
The next goal for them means a state championship, something the Scots boys are eyeing as well.
In the glow of new experience and achievement for several runners and teams, all goals seemed attainable.
"It will be exciting," Fessahaie said, "to see what happens."
Notable: Lovejoy's boys and girls won the 3A Region II team championships. Frisco Liberty's Brady Turnbull won the 4A Region II individual title. ... Rachel Johnson of Plano and Craig Lutz of Flower Mound Marcus won the 5A Region I individual titles in Lubbock. Southlake Carroll's girls and Marcus' boys won team titles.