Antonio Lealiiee-1

Antonio Lealiiee of Copperas Cove starts the first leg of the 4x100 meter relay during the Area Track Meet at Bulldawg Stadium in Copperas Cove on April 22.

COPPERAS COVE — It is a matter of pride.

For years, Copperas Cove has delivered on the track, where deep postseason runs are common for the program’s relay teams, and since taking over as Bulldawgs head coach, Keith Stifflemire has seen a number of impressive quartets.

Now, Marcus Brumfield, Eric Cain, Antonio Lealiiee and Shamad Lomax have an opportunity to join the group.

Through their first nine meets of the season, the Bulldawgs have emerged with at least a silver medal in the 400-meter relay every time, placing first on seven occasions, including at district, area and regionals.

With one more victory, the foursome will be crowned state champions, but the Bulldawgs are competing for more than just a medal, according to Stifflemire.

“We’ve had some great sprint relay teams in the past,” he said, “and they want their names to be remembered as a team that gave their best and did their best at the end of the year, and that’s what they’ve done.

“There is a tremendous amount of pride to wear that Dawg jersey, especially at the state track meet like others before them.”

Copperas Cove enters Saturday’s UIL Class 6A Track & Field State Meet at Austin’s Mike A. Myers Stadium having rarely been challenged throughout the season. In fact, the Bulldawgs’ two second-place finishes were behind Temple, which missed advancing to state by seven hundredths of a second, and Class 5A state qualifier Cedar Park.

With times of 42.37 seconds and 42.03, Copperas Cove won its first two meets of the year, but the team’s times have consistently improved during the past few weeks.

At the rain-shortened KISD Relays in early march, the Bulldawgs posted a time of 42.09, rivaling their season-best showing before following it with a first-place outing at the Ennis Lion Relays two weeks later, crossing the finish line in 42.53.

Since then, however, each performance has been more impressive than the last.

Copperas Cove claimed the District 12-6A title with a time of 42.14 before shaving close to a second off the display with a 41.27 en route to the area championship. Then, at the Region II-6A Meet, the Bulldawgs recorded their fastest time of the season, winning in 41.12.

While the athletes are dedicated to improving, Stifflemire believes their time off the track is equally important to the string of success.

“If you have too much rest or too much training,” he said, “things won’t work out, so you need a balance of that, but (assistant coach) Jeff Shannon has done a tremendous job of getting them prepared every week, and every week, they just keep getting faster and faster.

“That is a lot of scheduling to get the right amount of both rest and training.”

It also helps to have one of the area’s premier sprinters on the squad.

In addition to his responsibilities with the relay team, Brumfield will also be competing in the 100 at state after winning the event six consecutive times to start the season, including at district.

The senior posted his best time of the year at regionals, crossing the finish line in 10.51 to place third and earn the wildcard berth at state.

The Bulldawgs have the sixth-best seed time in the 400 relay, while Brumfield is seeded fifth in the 100 with the events scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., respectively.

Regardless of the event, though, the motivation remains the same.

“We’ve got three seniors who have been doing this for four years,” Stifflemire said. “They know what to expect, and they want to go out with a bang.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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