MG Team Earns National Accolade, Coach Billingsley 2019 State Coach of the Year
Miller Grove and Saltillo Cross Country Teams were recognized for their state achievements Monday afternoon with proclamations from Hopkins County Commissioners Court. The Miller Grove Team also earned national honors as well. One runner from Sulphur Bluff runner, one runner each from Saltillo and MG, and Coach Gary Billingsley also received individual state accolades.
Miller Grove ISD
The Miller Grove Hornets Cross Country Team which included Ethan George, Tanner Hensley, Anthony Lester, Kavan Smith, Kobe Robertson, Isaiah Billingsley, Lance Davis and Riley Hasten came home from the Nov. 23 contest with the state 1A team title.
“The team and coaching staff have achieved extraordinary results for their school community and themselves by combining efforts and desires to secure yet another win as state champions breaking the state’s team average with a documented time of 16.12,” Newsom read from the proclamation read on the courthouse steps during the noon event.
Newsom further commended the team and coaches for “finishing as sequential four-year undefeated champions for the state of Texas in the 2020 Class 1A State Cross Country Meet.”
According to Coach Gary Billingsley, the team has earned state honors for five of the last seven years. Miller Grove Boys teams won the championship from 2017 to 2020 and in 2014, finished second in 2015, third in 2016, fourth in 2013 and seventh in state 2012, according to UIL records.
In addition to the team’s first place finish at the state level, the Miller Grove Hornets took four of the top 10 spots this year. Junior Isaiah Billingsley’s not only captured the state title, but the win was a repeat performance for Billingsley, who broke the state record he set in 2019 in the 5K run.
“The remarkable efforts of Isaiah Billingsley has awarded him a time of 15.22.33 at the finish line, breaking his own 2019 record breaking time of 15.28.38 in the Class 1A Boys 5K Run,” Newsom noted.
The Miller Grove Lady Hornets Cross Country Team which included Kylee Saldana, Lauren Bullard, Jolee Fox, Jorja Bessonett, Alaira Serrano and Jamilyn Hensley came home from Rock Rock on Nov. 23 as the Class 1A Cross Country silver medalists for their efforts on the 2-mile course, earning three of the top 10 places individually.
The Nov. 23 state meet marked repeat honors for the Lady Hornets a well, who are silver medalists for the second time in three years. Lady Hornets teams won the state championship in 2019 and 2015, came in second in 2017 and 2018, and finished fifth in 2016, according to UIL Cross Country State Championship records.
Newsom commended the Lady Hornets and coaching staff for their hard work, self-discipline and team effort.
In addition to the state honors, the Miller Grove Lions also received national honors, finishing at the top of the National High School Coaches Association’s Final Division II Small School Team Championship Rankings.
“I commend you guys. I don’t know how you do it. Number one in the nation. That is amazing,” Newsom said.
The judge extended praise to the MGISD Coaches, who include Gary Billingsley, Ana Billingsley, Cody Walker and Blake Hill.
“I wish I could tell you how important a coach is to those that they coach,” Newsom said. “The coaches are examples of what can happen. They make something happen that could never happen otherwise. So I commend these four coaches.”
Newsom said that is especially true of MGISD Athletic Director and Coach Gary Billingsley, who has been announced as the 2019 Coach of the Year for the state.
The Saltillo Lions Cross country team came in just behind the MG Boys team, marking at least the sixth time in the last 7 years Saltillo boys teams have been among the top three teams in the state. The team consisted of Drew Redburn, Colton McGill, Coy Collins, Garrett Tarver, Gunner Tarver, David Whitworth and Cristian Trejo. Bill Giles and Casey Riddle are the team coaches.
Saltillo boys teams won the state cross country championship in 2016, came in second in 2020, 2019, 2017 and 2014; and third in 2018; seventh in 2015; eighth in 2012; and ninth in 2013.
Newsom commended the “the team effort and self-determination of each member of the Saltillo Independent School District Cross Country Team as displaying confidence in reaching goals of greatness within themselves as individuals.”
In addition to their silver team finish on Nov. 23, two members of the Saltillo Lions Cross Country team finished in the top 10 at state.
In fact, Garrett Tarver’s efforts during training and competition awarded him a recorded time of 15:40.80, putting him in second at the 2020 state competition. Tarver too has been a strong contender for the last three years, placing third in 2019 and finished second overall in 2018, according to UIL Cross Country State Championship records.
Sulphur Bluff ISD
Sulphur Bluff Lady Bear Bailey Neal was recognized for her bronze medal finish at the state cross country meet Nov. 23 in Round Rock.
“Bailey’s efforts displayed determination and perseverance toward obtaining her position on the podium as bronze medalist for the State of Texas,” Newsom read from the proclamation. “Lady Bear Bailey successfully crossed the finish line of the 2-mile race with an official time of 12:18.”
The judge commended Neal for “her fine performance and accomplishment as a third place Class 1A state finisher. Neal finished eighth overall in 2019, up from 34th the year before, according to UIL state XC records.