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Both seniors at Brazoswood High School, Leo Perez and Madison Habeck have common goals — to get to Round Rock for the UIL Class 6A Cross Country Championships.

Perez is looking for a return trip after qualifying as a junior, while Habeck wound up just short at the Region III Meet last year.

Two meets into the season, Perez has had a strong start, coming off a seventh-place finish at the Seven Lakes Showcase in Katy, with a time of 16 minutes, 23.49 seconds.

“I felt good yesterday and just enjoyed running with the front pack until I couldn’t kick anymore,” Perez said.

Perez went into the season hoping to get faster and stronger.

“One of the things that is helping me toward that are the different workouts we are doing in the weight room,” Perez said. “For me already it looks like it is helping me by having more endurance and speed.

“I really had never hit the gym as much as I have this year. I can see the difference.”

Returning to Round Rock is a goal for Perez, who wants to improve on his 101st place finish last year in 16:07.10.

“For me it was a lot of fun last year just to be there,” he said. “But I know that I have to keep moving forward even though I didn’t have a good finish at state last year. I just want to keep going faster and faster.”

Perez didn’t start running competitively in cross country until his sophomore season. Once he realized running was a good path to follow, he stopped playing competitive soccer.

“I want to go to Texas Tech to go run, but right now I just don’t know,” Perez said. “I do know some other schools are looking at me.”

Habeck is laying it all on the line this year, hoping to make it to where many don’t get an opportunity.

“So far it is going great; I am pleased at the way I’ve been progressing,” she said. “I am way ahead of the previous seasons, and so I am loving the team.”

As with Perez, Habeck has also acclimated herself to weight lifting.

“I’ve lacked in my strength so I am trying to improve that quite a bit,” Habeck said. “That’s really helped both upper and lower body.

“Its even helped me with band as well. I had normally missed the afternoon practices in previous seasons and was also the time that cross which was the time they’d go lift weights.”

A trumpet player with the Buc band, Habeck enjoys both band and cross country.

“My passion is in running and I prioritize that a bit higher,” she said. “But I really enjoy band as well, and I work hard in that too.”

Habeck started her running career in seventh grade purely b y accident. She used to play soccer and during her conditioning workouts, Habeck had a better kick than everyone else.

“I thought, maybe I am good at this running thing, and so my coach convinced me to do a 5K with him and ended up beating him,” she said. “I did track in seventh grade and cross country in the eighth grade and decided that running was my passion. I quit soccer just before high school.”

The Lady Buc finished 16th at the Seven Lakes Classic in 19:39.56.

“My goal this year is to make it to state and break 19 minutes, which is my PR (personal record),” Habeck said. “Last year I didn’t get to where I wanted to be at, so this year I have those same goals. I thought last year those goals were just out of reach for me, but based on how this year has started, they are achievable goals for me.”

Her personal record in a 5K is 19:38.

The Nike South and the Brenham Invitational are a couple of meets that lay ahead for Brazoswood cross country.

“I’ve always been a competitive person and running especially brings it even more out of me,” Habeck said. “One of the things helping out this season so far is the right mindset. Last year I put too much pressure on myself and would freak myself out even before a meet. During the track season I just got it in my head that I needed to relax, and it helped me because I can run loose and easy.”

So far a few schools at the next level have inquired about her. She has several others waiting to watch her at a local meet.

“I have been working on going out faster and picking up my second mile,” she said. “My kick is my strongest part of the race. I always pass girls in the last 100 meters. So sometimes I think I rely too much on that kick, so I am trying to push myself more in the middle of the race and the beginning.”

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160 or at joel.luna@thefacts.com

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