It’s 7 a.m., and just after sunrise on the track at Navarro High School, the Panthers cross country team has already been at work.

The girls and boys had just finished a timed mile run and in fact, were at practice in the dark, beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Head coach Jason Magin, a marathon runner himself who is approaching 25 marathons run, took over the program last season. 

Magin, who has been at Navarro for 19 years and took over the job after coming over from football, felt that cross-country was the perfect for him.

“I ran cross country in high school, I’ve always been a runner and am actively running and in training for marathons,” Magin said. “When Coach (Stephen) Zalesky retired I decided I wanted to try it out and see how it would be — it was a natural fit.”

The season last year was one to remember for the Panther cross country teams. 

Both the girls and boys teams finished second at district last year and made the regional meet.

“We’re looking to carry on what we did last year,” Magin said. “Both our teams advanced to the regional meet, so we’re looking to build on that success and continue with it.”

The coach credited the strong season last year to a group of boys and girls seniors that excelled under coach Zalesky.

“I’m running the same program that coach Zalesky had,” Magin said. “We lost three and four seniors (boys and girls), respectively, so we’re going to be a little bit younger, but the young kids are working hard and should be able to fill in well.”

The ladies have three returning seniors; Melonie Thomas, Sierra Simmons and Arianna Menchaca.

“Melonie is returning and should be able to help us out,” Magin said. “We also have a good group of younger runners, freshmen and sophomores that should be able to help fill in there.”

The one junior on the team is Avery Strauss, while the sophomores include Haley Blades, Alyssa Hasty, Jaelyn Martinez and Sabrina Sneed.

Freshmen runners Zoe Carter, Vanessa Garcia, Camden Guetzke and Sophia Salazar will look to make the seven-person team that travels to meets.

Two seniors on the boys team, Simon Coleman and Kaid Qassom, will lead the team that lost three of its starters to graduation.

Juniors include Dominique Gresham, Tanner Sanchez and Skylar Scharnhorst, while 14 sophomores and freshmen give the Panthers added depth.

Of those, the coach mentioned Sanchez, sophomores Nik Knight and Aaron Armer and freshman Quienton Gresham as some of the runners that could make an impact this season.

Getting the athletes prepared for the distances in cross country, two miles for the girls and three miles for the boys, involves a lot of different workouts in practices leading up to the meets.

“It’s based on an interval program,” Magin said. “We have one day a week for an easy long run, one day with a fast long run, and then a couple of recovery days where we’re running even longer.”

The girls might run three to four miles on those days, while the boys will run four to five miles. One day a week is reserved for speed training, Magin said.

The competition in district will come from the usual suspects, he said.

“The Gonazales girls are always really strong,” Magin said. “They were first last year so we’re trying to see if we can knock them off. The La Vernia boys have been strong as well, and Pleasanton has a good group coming up.”

The formula for success this season is simple, the coach said.

“We’ve got to work hard, put in the time and put in the miles,” Magin said. “Hopefully it will translate, so we’ll see how things go in October.”

Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at sports@seguingazette.com .

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