When it was decided Johnny Jefferson would anchor Shoemaker’s 800-meter relay at the state track meet, Grey Wolves track coach Kevin Ellison told the senior, “You’re going to put the team on your back when you get the baton and you bring us home.”
Jefferson was admittedly nervous. But knowing what he and others on the relay had sacrificed to get to Austin and seeing his teammates leave their everything on the track as the baton went around the track, Jefferson’s closing act was easy.
“Seeing my teammates working hard just told me there’s no way we were going to lose,” Jefferson said. “We always fall short in some way, but then in my head, it was up to me to make sure we don’t fall short this time in this moment.
“When I got the baton, I gave it all I had. I saw the dude in first place and all I could think about was, ‘Go get him. There’s no way he’s going to beat us.’”
Jefferson’s split in the final 200 meters was 20.4 seconds; the Grey Wolves were fourth when he received the baton from Taron Lloyd, but state champions when he was done, by nearly a full second, finishing in 1 minute, 24.21 seconds, three-tenths of a second off the state and national record of 1:23.92 set by Fort Bend Hightower in 2007.
Jefferson, a household name for three years because of his prowess on the football field, is the Daily Herald’s All-Area boys track athlete of the year.
Jefferson won the 100 meters, and 400-meter relay teammate DeOntre Haynes finished third at the District 8-5A meet, but both pulled out of the event before the area meet to focus on the relays. Quasan Hill, who ran the second leg on the 800 relay, pulled out of the 400. Dwayne Williams ran the opening leg of the 800 relay at the state meet.
Jefferson, who’s already attending Baylor on a football scholarship, said it was because they sacrificed individual glory that the team was able to win the 800 relay and finish fourth in the 400 relay at state.
“We all knew coming into area that the 4-by-2 and the 4-by-1 were the most important things on our list. We knew that we had a shot to compete at state with them relays,” Jefferson said. “When it came down to it, we all had to take a look in the mirror and say what’s important — us (as) individuals or bringing back a state title. We knew we had to give up something to get something better. We gave it up to become state champions.”
Hurdler — Bryant Farmer, Killeen: The senior finished seventh in the 300-meter hurdles at the state track meet in 39.12 seconds, nearly two seconds slower than the time he posted at the Region I-5A meets two weeks prior (37.55).
Distance — Alex Cooke, Salado: The senior was just three-tenths of a second from a gold medal in the 1,600. So, Cooke settled for yet another UIL state meet silver medal in his final season. After helping the Eagles’ cross country team to a second-place team finish at the state meet in November, he finished fifth in the 3,200 and second in the 1,600 individual at the state track meet.
Jumper — Cory Scott, Copperas Cove: Competiting for the just fourth time this season, the senior cleared 7 feet to win the 5A high jump at the state track meet. Scott, who recently signed to play basketball and run track at Texas Tech, didn’t start competiting this year until the District 8-5A meet and that was a on a whim when his coached asked if he could do it to help the Bulldawgs earn points toward a district championship.
Thrower — Ryan Simmons, Salado: The Eagles’ junior discus and shot put thrower improved in his third-straight appearance at the state track meet with silver medals in both events, but he had aspirations of winning gold in both. After receiving a silver medal in the discus (174-5) on the first day of the meet, Simmons led the shot put with a throw of 54-5 1/4 before being overtaken on the final throw.
Sprinter — Wolf Mahler, Belton: A four-event district champion and regional qualifier, Mahler competed in two events at the state track meet, placing fourth in the 400 meters in 47.97. He won the event at the district, area and regional track meets, and was a little more than a second away from winning gold at the state meet.
Relay — Shoemaker’s 800-meter relay — The group, which seemingly changed from week to week, was consistently the best on the track, finishing on top of the medal stand at the 5A state track meet. Dwayne Williams, Quasan Hill, Taron Lloyd and Johnny Jefferson won the first Shoemaker boys state championship, coming from as far behind as seventh to win in 1:24.21, nearly a full second ahead of second-place Fort Bend Bush.
Pole Vaulter — Wolf Mahler, Belton: Cleared 16 feet on his first try, but missed medalling in his favorite event because of previous misses. Still, the University of Texas-signed decathlete finished his senior season showing why he will compete in 10 events in college: he qualified for the area track meet in five events, including winning gold in four; and qualified for the regional meet in four events.