Lometa is coming off a strong showing at the District 28-1A, Division II track meet, with the Hornets claiming the team championship and the Lady Hornets finishing second overall.
Led by Mikhaila Barnett and R.J. Haggard, who advanced in five events each, 16 Lometa athletes qualified for Wednesday’s area meet at Lampasas, with the squads combining to win 15 gold medals.
On Monday, Lometa head track coach Aaron Nuckles talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittingtonabout his teams’ showings at district and his expectations for the remainder of the season.
You have to be happy with how things went at district, right?
Yeah. Three weeks out from district, we were looking at things, and I thought there is no way we would do that good. I thought we’d be competing for third place. But we got some more guys — mostly basketball players who weren’t doing anything else — and filled them into some spots.
Lo and behold, they got out there and competed, and we picked up points in every event that we had someone in. Heck, the only two events we didn’t advance someone in were triple jump and pole vault, and we didn’t have any triple jumpers or pole vaulters. So that’s not bad.
Several kids, including Haggard and Barnett, advanced in multiple events. How impressive were their performances?
They were just competing. R.J. is a competitor, but they all are. R.J. wasn’t much of a surprise because he is such a great athlete. Track is his thing where he can just let things go and let the horses run, so to speak. In basketball, I’ve kind of got to rein him in, but in track, he can just go. ... He got out in five events. That is just crazy.
The high jump in particular treated you well with three boys and a girl advancing.
We knew that would be something we would stand out in. We are hoping to get all of them to regionals (at Texas A&M-Kingsville), and we have a legitimate shot at having four high jumpers down in South Texas. That is what we are shooting for, and that would be pretty cool.
In addition to winning the high jump, Barnett earned gold medals in the long jump, 200-meter dash, 400 and was part of the first-place 400 relay team. What can you say about her day?
She had a great day. She is kind of like R.J., but on the girls’ side. She can do well in anything you put her in. She is probably a year off, and I know this is putting the bar kind of high for someone, but she is the type of person who has the ability to get to Austin in five events and score points in them. Probably not this year, but next year, she is capable of doing that. In the past, she used to just do high jump, but if she keeps going like she is, she is going to catch some attention, and people are going to be knocking on her door. It is pretty cool.
Everyone knows about defending state shot put and discus champion Tricia Williams, who won gold in both events, but Gunner Bradley also swept the throwing events for the boys. How important were their showings?
Team-wise, those points are big. Those are points that you almost automatically count on, and you hate to count on them automatically, but you kind of get used to getting them. So when you are used to getting them, you sure do want them. Then Kyle Molter won both hurdling events, and he was on the mile relay team that won, so he had some gold hanging on his neck too.
Speaking of the mile relay team, how did it feel to win that event, which is typically one of the most popular?
That is kind of what we base everything off of. You’ve got to get out and find four people tough enough to run a mile relay, and since we’ve started, they’ve taken about 15 seconds off their initial time. It is not the same four guys. We’ve mixed and matched here and there, but they are getting it down, and if we can take some more time off, they might be running for a while. We will see.
For anyone to make a run at state, they’ve got to excel at the area meet. In general, what will be the key to getting kids through area?
They’ve got to go out and have another good day. I hate looking ahead, but I did the dreaded thing where you compare heights and distances and stuff, then if everything held up, it will be incredibly close. We are capable of winning another area championship and going back-to-back, but we can’t have anyone drop a baton. We can’t have anyone hit a hurdle or scratch on something. We’ve got to be perfect, but there is a chance. So it is going to be a heck of a meet.
Having it 20 miles down the road in Lampasas has to make things easier, right?
We had a 2½-hour trip to College Station last year. I just think not having the kids on a bus for that long goes for something. Not having to be at school at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. to leave has got to be good for something. If not for them, it is good for me because I don’t have to be on a dang bus. It will be handy.