Junior Jesus Escamilla heads to Austin for the state cross country competition. It’s no surprise to his coach of three years Tara Yeater. She has nurtured him and other cross country runners to build their confidence and to challenge them to stretch themselves.
Since Yeater took over the cross country team four years ago, success has been in the team’s DNA. The boys have gone to regionals three years in a row and the girls two years in a row prior to this year.
Escamilla joined the cross country team his freshman year. He’d done exceptionally well in middle school and made West’s varsity team easily. Still he was a little timid, running with the big guys as a freshman.
“He didn’t know he was the best we had,” Yeater said. “By the end of the year, it just clicked.”
He has continued to build.
“He’s stepping out,” Yeater said. “His times are dropping lower all the time. I set goals for them and he beats them.
“I tell them they need to run 5 or 6 miles,” Yeater said. “They (the seniors and Escamilla) on the team) say they will go 10.”
That enthusiasm and love of the sport took the boys team to regionals for the third year in a row. The enthusiasm and passion Yeater puts into the team has helped both the boys and the girls teams push themselves.
Yeater isn’t one to pat herself on the back but she does think her enthusiasm for the sport and the runners makes a difference. She calls herself passionate about it.
“I think it’s true of any coach,” Yeater said of success with a team. “Get a coach that’s enthusiastic about it – passionate about it – and it transfers to the kids.”
That passion has paid off for both the boys and girls teams who had to struggle to get through their spring seasons being cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Not having a track season last spring hurt recruiting and, for a while, the excitement they had about running.
“They were depressed about not being able to finish their season,” Yeater said. “We had to do something to get their enthusiasm back up.”