The Melissa Lady Cardinals cross country team spent the Oct. 5 weekend in The Woodlands for the annual Nike South XC Invitational. The race is becoming the preeminent showcase for Texas cross country programs, drawing top talent from not just all over Texas but even featuring top programs from as far away as California.

This year’s race featured the top seven Class 5A teams, as well as three of the top 10 4A programs. Additionally, the Lady Cardinals squared off against the No. 1-ranked 3A team from College Station High School.

"It was a big test for us as a team," Melissa Coach Michael Bardgett said. "Not only was the competition stiff, but this was the first time for us to have our top 5 at the same race and several are still making their way back from injuries.

"Additionally, it was our first 5k race and the weather and the course made everything extremely difficult. With humidity at near 100 percent in the Houston suburb, the soggy course slowed down even the top programs. But I think we fared pretty well considering."

The Lady Cardinals placed three runners in the top 100 of the race and finished 16th out of 24 teams from the 4A and 5A ranks.

"Our goal was to measure ourselves against the best competition in the state and also against ourselves. How well could we push our bodies to race despite all the obstacles? I have to say I am very proud of our response and pleasantly surprised by the outcome. We’re right where we need to be heading into the final stretch of the season."

Ashley New led the team in her season debut. She was followed by Jackii Thomas, Kambri Gabel, Sophie Bennett, and Kailey Burton.

The Melissa cross country teams will be hosting their next race at the Country Ridge neighborhood park. The races will start at 8 a.m. Saturday and will feature high level competition from such area giants as Allen, Prosper and McKinney North, to name a few.