SALADO — Eagles’ senior Hunter Haas and sophomore Jaci McGregor have four chances to bring home a Class 4A state title for Salado.
Haas and McGregor swept the regional titles last weekend in the 3,200- and 1,600-meter races at the Region IV-4A Meet at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“We both only run the distance races,” said McGregor.
“It’s not like an everyday sport people do,” said Haas. “People get wowed by how much we run, how much we warm up before the race and after the race and, to me, it feels great to know that not a lot of people are going to do the sport.”
In the fall, Haas and McGregor also ran cross country for Salado.
“Once you start doing the distance races it just sort of becomes routine,” McGregor said. “It’s what you’re better at, so I think we excel at distance over short distances.”
The road to state started for Haas last year when he finished third in the Region III-4A 3,200 with a time of 10 minutes, 0.62 seconds.
“I usually run a 10:05,” he explained. “So I realized that I can compete with everybody else.”
Haas then shifted his focus to summer workouts and getting himself ready for his senior cross country season.
A year later Haas finished in front of a competitive group of runners with a 9:55.29 in the 3,200 race and a 4:36.13 in the 1,600.
“Going into my race I knew it was going to be a tight race between everybody,” Haas said. “Everyone was together for like six laps so there was a lot of punching, elbowing, getting spiked.”
His strategy to take the win?
“Just trying to maintain the threshold I was at, so I could make a move at the end,” he said.
Meanwhile, McGregor said she’s always found cross country to be her strong suit but has seen her success in track this year as proof of her potential in the sport.
She enters the state meet with the No. 2 seed times in both races.
Strategy is a key factor in winning distance events. McGregor used her wits to win her races last weekend in a strong breeze.
“In my race, my goal was to hang onto the heels of the girls running in front of me,” she said. “Because they’re both significantly taller than me and they always run right next to each other.”
The 5-foot-1 McGregor ran both races sticking just behind the two leaders.
“And they were blocking most of the wind for me,” she said. “So I knew when I needed to make my move.”
With just 150 meters left, McGregor sprinted to the finish line past the front-runners and won with a time of 11:21.33 in the 3,200 and 5:15.1 in the 1,600.
“If I had been leading the race, I wouldn’t have done so well because I would have taken the fall,” McGregor said. “I would have been more tired than they were.”
As the only two Eagles representing Salado at the state meet, and in the same events, Haas and McGregor are looking forward to their last races of the season together.
“We always go after school to the track and work out together,” McGregor said. “We motivate each other during the practice.
“We have to be pushing ourselves really hard in practice if we’re going to do good in state.”
Haas and McGregor will compete in the state meet May 11 at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin.
The 4A girls 3,200 is set for 8:40 a.m. The boys race is at 9. The girls and boys 1,600 races will start after the 9:35 p.m. 2A races are completed.
And while McGregor has competed at the state level in cross country, this will be her first appearance at state for track.
“It definitely means something,” said McGregor. “Because it takes a lot to get there, the top two.
“And all the miles we’ve put in and all the hard workouts are just getting more intense and it’s just really great to see all the hard work payoff.”
Haas is making his first state track appearance. It’s not so much the venue and reason for the race that matters to him.
“It’s more about what I want to accomplish in that race,” he said. “Because it’s my final race in high school and I want to go out pretty big.”