STEPHENVILLE — Sarah Latham expected stiff competition, but the stiff winds came as a surprise.
During the early-morning hours Thursday, a cold front moved into Central Texas, leaving athletes at the District 7-3A and 8-3A area meet enduring chilly temperatures and continuous wind gusts around 20 mph at Stephenville’s Lem Brock Field.
Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the Gatesville junior advanced to the Region I-3A meet in three events, including the pole vault, which she won with a height of 9-feet, 6 inches.
“(The weather) factored in quite a bit,” Latham said. “You just have to keep your mind off of it, but the wind was jerking the pole around. Trying to control it (was difficult).”
Lampasas junior high jumper Shonderius Howard also overcame the elements to earn a gold medal.
“The wind was pretty crazy,” said Howard, who cleared 6-6 to advance to regionals. “I was watching the girls, and the bar was being knocked down before anyone even ran up there because of the wind. I thought that was going to be a major problem, but I just went out there and jumped.”
Latham and Howard were not the only ones to excel in the blustery conditions, though. The Hornets finished second overall as a team behind host Stephenville, producing 83 points to edge out third-out place Alvarado (81), and of the 11 Gatesville boys to participate at the area meet, only one did not advance to the regional meet at Lubbock next weekend.
While pleased with the outcome, Hornets head coach Elliot Kelley knows the weather hampered his kids’ performances.
“All the guys finished and wanted to know their times, and then they are like, ‘Why did I run so bad?’ I’m like, ‘The headwind on the backstretch is crazy.’
“But the kids didn’t gripe about the wind, and as soon as it stopped being so cold, it stopped being so bad.”
The Hornets did a majority of their damage after the sun broke through the clouds, while competing in the running events, placing in the top five of nine races, including finishing in the top three of all three relays.
Gatesville finished second in the 400-meter relay with a time of 43.87 before placing third in the 800 relay (1:32.55) and 1,600 relay (3:33.24). Tyler Nyberg, who ran in the 400 and 800 relays, also medaled in the 200, finishing second in 22.22, while Jake Kee, who ran the anchor leg of the 1,600, posted a 52.68 in the 400 to place second.
Nicholas Meaders earned the Hornets lone gold medal, clearing 14-0 to win the pole vault.
“He is peaking right now,” Kelley said of the 2012 state qualifier. “He is where he needs to be.”
Led by Latham, who, in addition to winning the pole vault, was part of Gatesville’s third-place 800 (1:50.74) and 1,600 (4:16.71) relay teams, the Lady Hornets finished tied for fourth with Alvarado.
Gatesville finished second in the 400 relay (50.74), while Sarah Hogan (300 hurdles), Robbie Clarke (100) and Sally McLeod (shot put) each advanced with third-place finishes.
Long jumper Kat Cross finished second with a leap of 16-9 ½ to beat out Lampasas’ Faith Veroneau, who placed third with 16-0 ¾. Senior Julie Mize won the Lady Badgers’ only gold medal with a 34-5 ½ triple jump.
“It was windy and cold, so I did not do my best at all,” Mize said, “but I won. I scratched four out of my six jumps.”
Veroneau and Mize were the only Lady Badgers to advance, but several Lampasas boys, including Howard, will compete at regionals. Although a nagging hamstring injury prevented Steven Jazdyk from competing in three other events, the junior finished third in the pole vault with a height of 13-0. His alternate, Gary Spencer, took full advantage of the opportunity, jumping 20-6 ¾ to place third in the long jump, and Chase Birck finished fourth in the 400 (53.37).