By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Lady Tigers finished seventh at the UIL Class 6A-Region II meet on Oct. 26.
Two of Belton head coach Holly Lamberte’s 2015 star runners, Brooke Gilmore and Olivia Houlden, will be participating at the UIL Class 6A State Meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on Saturday. The Class 6A State run will be approximately 12 noon.
The pair have carried the Lady Tigers’ cross country torch for three seasons and qualifying for the state meet is another jewel for the Belton Cross Country program.
“The practices are feeling very fast right now” Gilmore said. “I’m very excited to be going to state.”
“I am definitely excited,” Houlden.
Both Gilmore and Houlden have shaved times throughout the 2015 season.
Since the Belton Invitational (18:29.5) to the Region II meet (17:58.85), a span of two-and-a-half months, Gilmore had improved her times by 30.65 seconds. Gilmore has five first-place finishes (Belton Invitational, Pro-Fit Invitational, Camp Tejas, Georgetown River and District 12-6A Championships), a fourth-place finish (Gerald Richey, in a field of 179 runners), a sixth-place finish (Regional II, in a field of 180 runners) and a seventh-place finish (Chile Pepper Festival Run in Fayetteville, Ark., in a field of 549 runners).
“Once I saw I was able to go under 18 minutes at regionals, I was really excited,” Gilmore said. “After the start, I pushed and paced myself to get out to the lead pack pack and run with them.”
Houlden has improved her times as well between the Belton Invitational (19:12.7) and the Region II meet (18:33.29), a difference of 39.41 seconds. Houlden had two second-place finishes (Camp Tejas and District 12-6A Championships), a fourth-place finish (Pro-Fit Invitational), a sixth-place finish (Belton Invitational), seven-place finish (Georgetown River), a 10th place finish (Gerald Richey), a 17th place finish (Region II) and a 46th place finish (Chile Pepper).
“What helped me the most was not thinking about it,” Houlden said. “At regionals, I wasn’t nervous and kept a positive attitude. Everyone was positive around me. I went into it confident.”
“Brooke and Olivia are such hard workers,” Belton girls’ cross country head coach Holly Lamberte said. “They prepare and go out and do their own thing. These girls have amazing work ethic and commitment to the team and themselves. That’s why they are in the position that they are in.”
Gilmore and Houlden are both looking forward to keeping up with the best runners in the state.
“I look forward to getting up there and running with the top pack, the best runners in the state,” Gilmore said. “Once I am running with someone, it makes the pace easier.”
“I’m looking for a really good PR (personal record),” Houlden said. “There are a lot of fast people at state, so I am excited.”
It has been some time since Belton has qualified at least two cross country runners for the state meet. Gilmore and Houlden are best friends and friendly competitors, which makes the state meet all the more special for the pair.
“We’re best friends and love racing together,” Gilmore said. “It is a friendly competition.”
“It’s different from when we were in middle school,” Houlden said. “In middle school, we were against each other. Now it’s friendly competition.”
“They race to the locker room,” Lamberte said, laughing. “If they are sitting down stretching, they race to the locker room to see who gets there first. Everything is a competition for them. But the good thing is that it is friendly competition and they push each other.”
The pair would love to bring home some individual hardware back to Belton. Both Gilmore and Houlden represent the red-and-white very well and are great students, as well as ambassadors for the Belton Cross Country program.
“I’m excited to get to get Belton’s name out there at state in cross country conversations,” Gilmore said. “I want to help get our school out there as one of the best cross country programs in the state.”
“I definitely would love to have more cross country recognition for Belton,” Houlden said.
“Brooke and Olivia have done a lot for our program,” Lamberte said. “And all of our girls have done a great deal this season to get Belton’s name out there. With TxRunning.com and Mile Split, our team has been state-ranked this season and Brooke’s been the Runner of the Week, our name has gotten out there.”