HARKER HEIGHTS — The Harker Heights boys 4x400-meter relay team has had its work cut out for it since finishing as runner-up to Temple at the District 8-5A meet.
And every time, the Knights have answered the challenge.
Now, if Heights can do it one more time, they will have a highly-coveted state championship — and a very happy head coach in John Dulaney.
“You put these guys on the track out there and so far they’ve stepped up to the competition level and got it done,” Dulaney said. “So we’re hoping we do that one more time.”
Yet the team of Jaquan Johnson, Darius Mitchell, D’undre Mitchell, Jevon Wallace and Jacques Morgan has already impressed Dulaney by stepping up even as the competition got stiffer late in the season.
“They did it in area — stepped up and won it,” Dulaney said. “We knew we’d have to drop time at regional to qualify — they dropped four seconds.”
Yet on an unseasonably cold day at Panther Stadium in Hewitt, Heights wasn’t able to win its own district.
“That one was devastating,” Johnson said. “I really wanted that one.”
The second-place finish gave the Knights new motivation moving forward.
Darius Mitchell, who is also competing at state in the 200, vowed after the district meet that he and his teammates were going to come back stronger at area, and they did.
And one reason for the Knights’ recent success has been the reliable running of the alternate, Morgan.
Morgan isn’t your average alternate, as he runs regularly for the Knights. He was on the first-place team at area and ran in the preliminaries at regionals.
“I wasn’t ready for it at first,” Morgan said. “But then I had to get my mind right. After that I felt like I could do good for us.”
Because of him, Heights knows it doesn’t just have four runners it can count on — it has five.
And after competing with, and beating, many of the top teams in the state, the Knights are confident that they can do it again at state.
“We were really looking forward to racing against the Dallas-area teams like DeSoto,” D’undre Mitchell said.
“Once we beat them, we felt like can do well at state.”
Yet as confident as Heights is heading into the state meet in Austin this weekend, they know they’ll have to step up with their best effort again if they hope to win it.
And the Knights are just fine with that.
“We’re sitting (at) two going in the mile relay, Darius is sitting one (in the 200),” Dulaney said, “and if we don’t get out there and have our best performance, it won’t matter.
“We’re going to have to give it our best.”