The Robert E. Lee cross country season begins Saturday with the Tyler Lee Cross Country Classic at UT Tyler.

The REL Classic is a collegiate and high school meet with UT Tyler as co-hosts. The college meet will begin at 7:30 a.m. with the first high school race scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m. A total of 45 teams will be participating in the highs school meet alone. The girls will run a two-mile course with the boys completing a 5K (3.1 miles) course.

Kaufman’s German Lopez is the boys defending champion. He went on last year to finish in ninth overall at the state meet and is back to defend his title. Lee coach Dennis Baker said Lopez will be challenged by Whitehouse’s Troy Hayden, Grady Frazier of T.K. Gorman and Brad Beckham of New Diana.

Hayden also competed at state last year in the Class 4A meet. Frazier finished second last week at the Spring Hill Invitational Meet behind race winner Beckham.

On the girls side of things, Lee sophomore Abby Halbrook is the clear favorite. The District 11-5A champion won the Spring Hill meet last week in a time of 12:09 while running unattached.

“Abby finished second last year (in this race) to Heather Sterling, who is now running for A&M,” Baker said. “She looked good (last week); she’s just now getting her speed because we really worked hard on strength training this summer.”

Baker said Halbrook’s main challengers in will be Pine Tree’s Christina Nelson and Bullard’s Bailee Callens. The three runners finished 1-2-3 last week at Spring Hill.

In the overall team competition, the Lee girls are defending champs and Baker predicts a repeat while saying the boys team “is going to surprise some people this year.”

"I would expect the top boys teams in the open division to be Kaufman, Marshall, Lufkin Hudson and Tyler Lee,” Baker said. “For girls, I would expect Lee, Lufkin Hudson and T.K. Gorman. Gorman has a really good girls team. All of the other schools, it’s just a toss up. We will probably have about 15 schools in the open division and the rest in the 1A-3A division.”

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