All week Shoemaker track coach Kevin Ellison has been talking about the area track meet like it is state.
The UIL State Track and Field Championships, though, are still three weeks away.
“Every week, from here on out, is our state meet because DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Duncanville, the Mansfield schools, South Grand Prairie, they all have pretty good track traditions and we have to go and compete,” Ellison said. “Most of the time, there isn’t going to be a whole lot out there that’s much better than what we’re going to face at area. And then the same thing if we get to regionals, we’re going to have to compete against them again.”
Beginning this year, the University Interscholastic League added an area track meet between the district and region meets, something 1A schools have used for years.
The top four finishers in each event at district advanced to the finals-only area meets this week. The top four finishers at the area meet will then move on to region, where only the top two in each event qualify for the state meet. In previous years, the top three finishers in each event at district automatically qualified for the region meets and then had the option of running in a regional qualifier meet in the off week between the district and regional meets.
“This week we basically have to back off a little ... because you still have to advance,” Salado girls track coach Cindy MeWhinney said. “Before you had the option if you really wanted to train hard and not even go to a regional qualifiers meet, or you could try a different strategy. But now you’re locked in.”
The District 7-5A and 8-5A Area track and field meet was postponed to Friday at Waco Midway’s Panther Stadium because of the threat of inclement weather Thursday. Field events and the 3,200-meter runs will start at noon while running events begin at 5:30 p.m.
The District 15-2A and 16-2A Area meet, which includes Florence and Salado, is also Friday beginning at 9 a.m. in McGregor, while the District 7-3A and 8-3A Area meet will be today in Stephenville beginning at 10:30 a.m.
“The biggest (challenge) is the mindset that this is for real and we’ve got to be on our A game again for another week,” said Harker Heights girls track coach Michelle Womack. “It’ll be three weeks in a row that we either bring it or go home.”
Weather forces setbacks
It’s the second time in as many weeks that weather has forced a scheduling change for the District 8-5A teams. Their district meet last week in Temple was backed up a day because of rain.
“I like it because we used it to get better today,” Copperas Cove boys track coach Keith Stifflemire said of the delay. “We went and worked out real hard at the track and that’s going to help us. But, then again, that gives one less day to prepare for regionals, also. That’s OK, too. We’ve got to get past this meet before we start thinking about regionals.”
Facing District 7-5A, which features the defending 5A boys and girls state champion DeSoto, only makes the trek to the Region I-5A meet, slated for April 26-27 at Texas Tech’s Fuller Track, more challenging.
On the boys side, the disparity is negligible. District 7-5A has the best qualifying times in the 100, 400, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, and all three relays and the best marks in the long jump, triple jump and shot put. District 8-5A has best qualifying times in the 200, 800, 1,600 and the 3,200, as well as the best distances and Heightsin the high jump, pole vault and discus.
But, in most running events, only 10ths or 100ths of a second separate the winning times between the districts.
“If we can keep improving like we have been, then we have a chance to run with them. ... We have utmost respect for them, but we’re going to go up there and run and we’re not scared to compete or anything like that, so let’s go run,” Ellison said.
Cove won the 8-5A boys title with just four first-place finishes, but all four individual winners are area-bests going into the meet.
Cameron Woodberry has the best times in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters (4:28.57 and 9:45.13, respectively). Cory Scott has the best height in the high jump (7 feet) and Girod Fluelen has the best mark in the discus (169-6).
Shoemaker’s Taron Lloyd has the best time in the 200 (21.17) and Ellison’s Efrain Hernandez has the best time in the 800 (1:56.7).
“I think our district’s going to do well. If you look at times, we’ll match up real well,” Stifflemire said.
7-5A even better on girls side
On the girls’ side, District 7-5A has the best qualifying times in every running event but the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, and the best marks in the high jump and triple jump.
“The one thing about track, you never know what’s going to happen,” Womack said. “You never know what’s going to change the course of a race. Times are one thing, but conditions and mental state of mind are another and that’s always a factor when you step on the track.”
Killeen’s Brittany Mitchell’s time in the 1,600 (5:10.43) is by far the fastest going into this weekend’s meet and all four of 8-5A’s 3,200-meter qualifiers posted times better than the 7-5A winner, led by Harker Heights’ Charlotte Fleming (12:02.64).
Shoemaker’s Cion Hicks has the best qualifying marks in both the shot and discus (46-4 1/2 inches and 143-11, respectively), though, in the shot especially, she’ll be pushed by DeSoto’s Adrienne Lewis, who threw 45-1 to win the 7-5A meet.
Aloysia Young, also from Shoemaker, has the best long jump mark with an 18-6 1/2 and Waco Midway’s Annie Rhodes won the pole vault with a District 8-5A-record 13-foot vault, but even the 10-6 marks posted by Claire Woodson (Belton) and Elizabeth Crosby (Harker Heights) are better qualifying heights than the 9-foot mark with which DeSoto’s Jaylon Wesley won 7-5A.
“I think we — both my girls and my boys — are performing pretty well right now. ... We want to keep that up,” Ellison said. “We just happen to be in the area meet with defending state champions so that’s one of those obstacles that’s in the way, but, again, we have to go run so we’ll go do it.”
Staff writer Alex Byington contributed to this report.