LOMETA — Lometa’s track is made of dirt.
There is no rubberized surface providing cushion or traction. There are no lanes, and there is no finish line. The Hornets and Lady Hornets do not even have the luxury of an accurate course, with their home track measuring 20 meters longer than a regulation track.
Lometa lacks a lot compared to other track programs. The small-town school has an abundance, however, of state qualifiers.
A total of 10 Lometa athletes will compete in five events at the Division II-1A State Track and Field Meet beginning Thursday at the University of Texas in Austin. Additionally, freshman Kyle Molter is traveling as an alternate in the boys 1,600-meter run.
Hornets head coach Aaron Nuckles believes part of the reason Lometa is experiencing such success is because of the school’s outdated oval, which was constructed in the 1950s and surrounds the tiny school’s six-man football field.
“I think it makes you tougher,” he said. “Football, basketball, track — if you are an athlete, you are in the same conditioning program, and we drug tires out there in the dirt, in the dust. You haven’t lived until you’ve drug a tire on a dirt track.
“It is a mental approach. If you can run fast on dirt, then you can run fast on a real track.”
Two of the program’s relay teams proved as much as Lometa qualified for state in the boys 4x400 and the girls 4x100 races after producing second-place times of 3:43.94 and 54.52, respectively, at the recent regional meet.
Lometa junior Shane Stone, who is joined by Pedro DeLuna, Jose Acevado and Taylor Benitz on the relay team, believes practicing on a dirt track provides both drawbacks and benefits.
“There are spots you know will tear you down because the sand is loose,” Stone said, “and there are spots where the sand is slick. It helps, but it is very hard. It is easy to slip and fall on your start. (But when I get on a real track) I feel super fast. I feel like The Flash.”
To compensate, the Hornets and Lady Hornets travel approximately 40 miles round-trip to Lampasas several times a week to practice on a modern track, and 4x100 relay team member Jessica Moore knows she must make the most of the trips.
“You cannot wear your spikes (at Lometa),” the junior said. “We have to wear regular shoes. We have to practice hardcore at Lampasas because we can’t even work on handoffs here. It’s difficult.”
With the meets growing in importance, Lometa is using Lampasas’ track more frequently, limiting the use of its home track to conditioning purposes. While the road trips give the runners a better surface, they create longer days as well.
“There has to be a high level of dedication,” Lady Hornets head coach Brandy Eckermann said. “It is very time consuming. They have other things going on, so it definitely has to be one of their priorities.”
In addition to the 4x100 relay team, comprised of Moore, Alexis West, Angela Arellano and Esmeralda Jasso, junior Tricia Williams and Mikhaila Barnett will represent the Lady Hornets in field events at state.
After placing first at district, area and regionals in both the shot put and discus, Williams enters Austin as the only Lometa athlete with previous experience at state. Last year, as a sophomore, she won the discus with a distance of 133 feet, 11 inches.
She will not be alone this season, though.
Barnett also swept her way through the postseason meets, winning district and area titles with heights of 5-2 before claiming the regional championship by clearing 5-4.
Like the runners, Barnett also encounters obstacles using Lometa’s field. The approach area is hard as concrete and littered with pebbles, grass, weeds and dirt.
“It’s a challenge, but you have to work with the things you have,” the sophomore said. “At least I have a mat.
“Once you set your mind to something, and you finally get there despite having a not-so-good environment to practice on, I think it makes it that much more special.”
Regardless of where the Hornets finish in their race, Stone is simply satisfied to be competing at state and at a multimillion-dollar facility.
“We are fixing to be going to a big field that has a jumbotron and big bleachers,” he said. “Our bleachers (at Lometa) are like the little bleachers in the end zone there. It is crazy, but I’m excited.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org