By Bill Spinks

One year after sending two runners to state, the Heritage High School cross-country team begins a new quest for championships.

Head coach Tammie Floyd’s Jaguars will open the season next Wednesday, Sept. 2, in the Keene Invitational at Keene’s Rex Callicott Park.

Leading the Jaguars’ girls team is returning senior Renee Elliott, who qualified for the Class 4A girls’ race as an individual medalist after finishing third at the 4A Region III meet. Elliott placed ninth in a time of 11 minutes, 49.03 seconds on the 3,200-meter 4A course at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

With Elliott, three of the top runners from last year are back for the HHS girls. Also returning are sophomore Allie Schmidt and junior Kaylee Norwood.

The team finished seventh at last year’s regional meet in Huntsville and was also the District 17-4A runner-up.

The boys, meanwhile, are looking for replacements for five of the team’s top six runners who graduated. Among those is Ethen Agreda, who qualified for the state meet as a medalist.

The top returning runners are juniors Brent Penwarden, who finished 16th in last year’s district meet, and Ross Hinds, who ran in the regional meet. However, the team has a large pool of new competitors to choose from.

The Jaguars finished as runners-up in last year’s 17-4A boys meet and advanced to the regional meet, where they placed a strong fifth and just missed out on qualifying the entire team for state.

After next Wednesday’s season debut, the Jags will co-host the Midlothian Invitational on Sept. 16 and will also compete in the Ken Gaston "Race at the Buff" on Oct. 1.