By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Aliayah McDonald didn't want to settle for second place.
After a back-and-forth battle between the Harker Heights sophomore and Shoemaker junior Lekesha Jelks, McDonald got the last word in powering the Lady Knights to gold as the anchor in the 1,600-meter relay final Wednesday in the District 12-5A track and field meet at Bulldawg Stadium.
"This race is what it always comes down to - it's who wants it more, which team wants it more," McDonald said. "And we wanted it, we wanted it bad. Second place wasn't good enough today."
Despite the win, along with golds in the 400 and 400 relay, it wasn't enough to propel the defending district champions to the top spot again as A&M Consolidated won the girls title with 142.5 points. Heights finished second with 108 while the Lady Grey Wolves came in third with 102.
"It's always nice to have strong battles and good rivals, because it makes your kids compete harder, and that's what we did today," Heights girls track coach Michelle Womack said.
"It's certainly a disappointment, because we ... thought this group could be the first to win back-to-back (titles), but we're young and we had a great season."
The Lady Knights, who had finished first in seven of eight meets during the season, started strong as the quartet of Tiera McCoy, Brittany Adkins, Valencia Lock and Jourdan Oglesby won the day's opening event - the 400 relay (48.29) - by 0.46 seconds over Shoemaker.
It wouldn't be long before the Lady Grey Wolves answered back, though, as sprinter Kadeja Walker beat out preliminary leader Lock in the 100 dash 12.26 to 12.47.
McDonald, who hadn't lost in the 400 the entire season, came back with a big statement by besting defending 400 champion Lekesha Jelks of Shoemaker by 0.15 seconds (56.64-56.79). Jelks, though, returned the favor by beating McDonald in the race she won a year ago - the 200 - by nearly half a second (25.44).
On the boys side, Heights senior Kyle Thompson also reeled in a pair of gold medals, winning both the 800 (1:52.64) - in which he's the defending 5A state champion - and the 400 (48.04), sprinting down the back stretch to pull ahead of the Ellison duo of Chris Hall and Sean McBryde in just the second time he's competed in the race.
"It's a complete different strategy, there's no room for error like there is in the 800, so you can't make any mistakes," Thompson said. "I just love the last 150 of a race, having a kick is the funnest thing."
Host Copperas Cove rolled to its first district title since the 2007 state championship team, with a trio of gold medal hat tricks from seniors William Randolph and Mark Branch and talented junior Orlando Thomas - who had a shot at a fourth medal but fell in the 110-meter hurdles - as the Bulldawgs won six of 10 running event finals.
Only top three placers advance to the Region II-5A meet the first week of May at Baylor's Hart-Patterson Track Complex in Waco, and the Bulldawgs are sending competitors in 15 events. Leading by 36 points after Day 1 of mostly field events, the Bulldawgs piled it on in the second day, besting two-time defending district champion Ellison 184.01-124.01 points.
Grace Weaver just wanted to work on her vertical.
Regan Gilbert wasn't happy with his.
Weaver, the two-time Daily Herald Volleyball Most Valuable Player, is headed to Tulane in the fall and she'll go as a district champion in track and field, too.
In her first year competing in the high jump, the Belton senior was the only jumper to go past five feet Wednesday at the District 12-5A meet at Copperas Cove's Bulldawg Stadium.
Weaver cleared 5-foot-4 for a personal best, missing three times when she tried 5-6. Harker Heights' Ambrya Mack was one of seven jumpers to clear 5-0, taking second place.
"In eighth grade I did triple jump and long jump, but I wasn't good," Weaver said. "But I figured why not? In the last year, my vertical has gone up a lot."
Weaver wasn't alone in earning gold in Wednesday's field events.
Gilbert started slow, missing once at 14-0 and 14-6, but cleared 15-0 while Belton's Kyle Rhoads missed three attempts to finish second.
"Definitely wanted more," said Gilbert, a Kansas signee. "Last week, I did good at Texas Relays and this week - I don't know if it was nerves to qualify or whatnot, but I just wasn't doing what I needed to do to jump higher."
Shoemaker's Cion Hicks claimed the girls discus title with a toss of 137-6, and Ellison's Darian Brown won the boys shot with a distance of 56-2¾. Also advancing to the Region II-5A meet are Ellison's Jaricka Thomas (120-10) and Belton's Ashlie Francis (120-7), who finished second and third in the girls discus behind Hicks. In addition, third-place finishers Neito Hill (boys shot put) of Ellison and Heights' Alithea Collins (girls triple jump) move on as well.