On August 5, when large groups of football and volleyball players gathered for the opening practices for their 2013 seasons, a small band of dedicated athletes met with little fanfare.
In Van Alstyne, six runners would get a 7 a.m. start on the 2013 cross country season to begin, what turned out to be, a truly historic year.
The experienced brother-sister duo of Evan and Molly McQuirk, along with freshmen Hannah and Jacob Taylor, Madison Reno and Blake Broussard reported to coach Russell Best to begin a long trail which would end for three of them in Round Rock.
For several Howe distance runners, the formal training for the 2013 season would not begin until the opening day of classes.
Van Alstyne cross-country got the 2013 competition off to a good start as Evan and Molly McQuirk ran in the Marcus I invitational in Lewisville. Molly, running in the girls 4A class, finished eighth out of 49 runners with a time of 21:44 for the 5K distance. Evan, also running in the the top boys class, finished 23rd out of 220 runners with a time of 16:16.
On September 14, the Van Alstyne team traveled to Grand Prairie to compete in the Gerald Richey Invitational, running over the Lynn Creek Park course that would be the site of the regional meet in November. Evan finished third in the 5A class with a personal best time of 16:05. Molly was 16th in a field of 200 girls, running the two-mile course in 12:46. Hannah Taylor ran a 13:32.
At the Arts Fest run in Sherman, the McQuirk’s finished first, Evan taking the crown in the mens division with a time of 16:20. Molly was the first female runner to finish, running the 5K distance in 20:26. Jacob Taylor finished eighth with a time of 19:38, while sister Hannah was 27th with her 21:41 effort.
On that same Saturday the Howe cross country team ran at the Cardinal Challenge in Pottsboro. Brandon Wall finished 18th with a three-mile time of 20:28, while Kendall Nelms was 31st over the two-mile course with a time of 15 minutes flat.
The following weekend, Evan and Molly traveled north to Stillwater, Okla., to compete in the 77th running of the Cowboy Jamboree, a cross country challenge for high school and college runners.
Competing in the highest Oklahoma classification (6A) Evan finished 13th in a field of 160 runners, covering the 5,000 meter distance in 16:57. Molly was 26th in a field of 145 with a 3200 meter time of 12:30.
The other members of the VA team ran in the Waterloo Run in Denison where Hannah Taylor won the junior varsity division with a two-mile time of 14:59. Howe’s Kendall Nelms finished 11th with a time of 15:11
The following week, the Howe runners hosted the first Howe XC Invitational and Darci Foster finished third with a time of 14:36. Foster was just rounding into condition coming off of an injury.
A second place finish for Evan at the Jesuit Classic in Dallas and a win at the Melissa XC meet set the stage for district meets.
Howe would be running in Pottsboro and Foster finished eighth in that event to qualify for the regional meet.
Evan won his third district cross country championship, lowering his personal best time in the 5K to 15:44. Molly finished second with a time of 12:16, and Hannah Taylor earned a regional berth, finishing sixth.
Jacob Taylor finished 12th, just missing out on a regional spot but running his personal best time of 18:44.
With no competition to push him during the late stages of the regional meet, Evan ran a 16:15 to win his first regional championship. Molly earned a trip to state, finishing fourth with a time of 12:13. Hannah Taylor finished eighth, earning the freshman a trip to Round Rock for the State Cross Country Championships.
At Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, Evan capped off his outstanding high school cross country career with a state championship. Running the rugged course in 16:03, he finished more than seven seconds ahead of his closest competition to win the gold.
Molly finished 12th, improving on her 28th place finish in 2012. Hannah, in her first trip, finished 60th.