DJ Lilley, Daniel McCants, Kyle Boutte and Devyn Williams knew they couldn’t make the same mistake twice in a month.
During the District 7-5A/8-5A Area Track meet in mid-April the team missed on some handoffs and, as a result, barely advanced to the Region I-5A meet in Lubbock.
And then facing better competition and faster teams in the regional meet, some people may not have expected the fourth-place qualifiers to do much. But they did.
“We were the underdogs out of our area,” Williams said. “We came up and we’ve been grinding every week after that.”
The Running Roos turned some heads after taking second place in the boys 400 relay with a time of 41.20 seconds and have their sights on Austin this week.
The Roos will run in the 400 relay at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus. “It was nerve-wracking, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” McCants said about the regional race.
Killeen’s seed time of 41.20 seconds is the third best in the Class 5A race behind Cibolo Steele (41.14) and Justin Northwest (41.18).
“We’re hyped, we’re pumped,” Boutte said. “It’s a great experience to go through. We didn’t go for football so it’s a great thing to go for track.”
The Roos had a lot of work to do after the area meet.
Killeen was the fourth and final qualifier in the area meet after posting a time of 41.82 seconds, just six-hundredths ahead of fifth-place Mansfield.
And with the bigger stage came a faster performance as Lilley got off the blocks and handed the baton to McCants for the second leg. McCants then passed it on to Boutte for the third leg and Williams finished the race with the anchor leg.
And once the time was posted, a celebration began for the three seniors who took advantage of their final opportunity to make state and the junior who has been working toward this goal.
“When I saw Devyn take the stick and finish, it hit me then,” said Lilley, the only junior on the team. “I was excited and I knew we were going to state.”
Lilley’s job is to get out of the blocks quickly on the first leg.
Lilley knows that the competition will jump up a notch compared to the postseason races that the Roos became used to, but the team intends to work just as hard to improve on their time as they did before the regional meet.
“We weren’t satisfied with our performance at area,” Lilley said. “We worked a lot harder to be better at regionals.”
McCants has run track all four years of his prep career and that helped him improve on the football field, where he excelled as a running back and kick returner.
“It’s made me feel faster and better,” McCants said.
McCants will showcase his speed against Lone Star Conference opponents this fall as a Tarleton State Texan.
Boutte sees the state meet as a culmination to a successful comeback. He sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee last summer and didn’t get cleared to resume athletics until January.
“I have something to climb up to and finish the season strong,” Boutte said.
Boutte said the weeks of having limited mobility and rehabilitation taught him a lot of patience.
Williams, an Oklahoma Panhandle State signee, took in some of the joy from the relay and got back on the track later that day to run the 400.
“It felt good,” Williams said. “There was a lot of relief off me, but I had to get ready for the 200 right after that, so it was short-lived. I just knew in the back of my head that we were going to state right after that race.”
Williams finished fifth in that race with a time of 21.62 seconds.
The UIL offers an all-session ticket bundle to watch every event in all six classes on Friday and Saturday for $25. Adult tickets are $10 per session and student tickets are $5 per session.
The admission gates at Myers Stadium open at 7:15 a.m. each day.