AUSTIN — Cion Hicks always had to work harder in the discus.

It was more technical, more involved and it required more than the sheer strength she had that allowed her to power through the shot put.

“Discus was the event that gave me the most trouble through the years,” said Hicks, who finished second at the 5A state track and field meet last year in the discus. “Shot put is the event I always liked. This year in shot put I am getting better quicker and it took me longer to get back on discus.

“I have always been in love with shot (put). It might not have always gone as far as I wanted it to, but I have always liked the power and muscling it out there.”

This year, both of them are coming together. After taking second in the discus Friday, Hicks finished fourth in the shot put at the 86th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on Saturday, improving on the each of her throws until her final attempt, which was one inch shorter than her fifth throw, at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

“Improving throws is a little bit harder,” Hicks said. “Usually you have throwers that get a good one their first time and then they go down. When you improve each time that means you are fixing something and can recognize what you are fixing.”

Hicks fouled on her first attempt, and then, in sequence, threw 40 feet, 6 inches, 41-¼, 42-9¾, 44-5¼ and finally 44-4¼. Hicks’ best mark of the season, though, was 45-10. Nekia Jones of Beaumont Ozen won the event with a distance of 47-7¼.

“It was in the range of where I want to throw. I don’t want to peak too early,” Hicks said. “I am trying to build, and build and build. I am always trying to strive for better.”

Hicks was in second place in the shot put until the final two throwers, Haley Teel (Gregory-Portland) and Lauryn Caldwell (Dickinson), passed her on their sixth and final attempts. All she could do was sit and watch.

“They are just really talented and they got those throws out,” Hicks said. “I can’t let those marks deter how I am supposed to throw or take me out of my game.”

Grey Wolves step out from 8-5A pack

Johnny Jefferson and his fellow Shoemaker Grey Wolves are putting the rest of District 8-5A on notice: they’re gunning for gold next week.

Despite four 8-5A teams entering the 400-meter relay preliminaries, the Grey Wolves were the last one standing come Saturday’s finals, finishing fifth in Division II with a time of 41.96 seconds, losing out on fourth by 0.06 seconds.

“Nobody ever expects anything from Shoemaker, they always leave us at the back, but this isn’t a game for us,” said Jefferson, the relay’s second leg. “We’ve been going to track meets away from (the other district teams) so they won’t know what they’re getting into (at district).”

“Because we’re coming,” added senior Lege Justice, the relay’s third leg. “This year we are coming.”

Along with Jefferson, a Baylor running back-signee, and Justice, fellow senior Taron Lloyd and sophomore Tre Haynes, the Grey Wolves were the lone District 8-5A team to advance to the 400 finals after Killeen, Harker Heights and Temple were eliminated in the preliminaries.

“The way we see it, this is just a little stepping stone. This opens our eyes to what else is out there,” Jefferson said. “This is basically a state meet and for us to come in fifth is a good thing because it lets us know we have a chance to be a good team at state.”

The District 8-5A meet will be held April 10-11 at Temple’s Wildcat Stadium.

Heights’ Houston, Wolves’ Lloyd ready for district

Ramone Houston slowly walked back after his last jump and sat down on the metal bench next to Shoemaker senior Taron Lloyd.

They both wanted to have done better, but now they know the competition. Houston, a senior at Harker Heights, will have to beat Lloyd if he wants to win the District 8-5A meet and Lloyd knows he will have to beat Houston. More than likely, it is going to be close. Houston finished fourth at the Texas Relay with a leap of 22-9¾. Lloyd was sixth, a little more than an inch (22-8½) behind his rival and a foot and half behind champion Andre Jefferson of Tyler (24-3).

“We already know who will do what,” said Lloyd, who fouled on his last three attempts. “We will just wait and find out (who wins).”

Houston, who jumped more than 23 feet last week, said an injured groin held him back, especially on his landings.

“It felt good on the first few jumps, but my jumps just went down,” he said.

Mahler, Belton limp to finish

Wolf Mahler felt his hamstring tighten when he warmed up for the pole vault. But, through his first few jumps, nothing appeared wrong. Then on the run-up on his attempt at 16-2¾, he felt it give away.

He didn’t clear the bar and he did not run later in the Tigers’ 1,600-meter relay. Mahler finished sixth in the pole vault, well behind Daven Murphree of Big Sandy Harmony (17-8½) and Belton came in last in the 1,600 finals without him, with Malik Green running as alternate, the Tigers finished in 3:24.09, five seconds off their time from Friday’s preliminaries. Houston Nimitz won the relay, crossing the finish line in 3:14.11.

“It felt fine the first few jumps and then 16 (feet) came around and I started feeling it a little more and a little more and then I felt it pop a little bit,” Mahler said. “I have to scratch (for the 1,600). We just can’t afford to have major injuries right now with district a week away.”

Simmons continues to struggle at Myers

Ryan Simmons joked that he — a lifelong Oklahoma Sooner fan — has never felt comfortable inside the burnt-orange confines of the Longhorns’ home stadium.

Only, after his last two showings on the Mike A. Myers stage, even he isn’t laughing about it any more.

Disgusted with his final attempt in the high school shot put, the Salado junior thrower intentionally faulted when he aggressively stamped his right foot out of bounds before ripping off his bib number in frustration.

It was that kind of day for Simmons, who scratched in all three finals attempts and finished eighth with a season-low distance of 53-8½ — three feet off his personal best and 2¼ feet behind the 55-11 he set a week ago at the prestigious Jesuit Sheaner Relays in Dallas.

“I didn’t even know how far it went, you can just tell when it comes out good or bad and that one just felt really bad coming out, so I didn’t look to see,” Simmons said.

Simmons, who took fifth place in the shot at last year’s 3A state meet and won bronze in the discus, blamed being “too tense” on his struggles and not being able to talk to his coach and father in between throws.

“I was getting tense just trying to throw too hard too fast,” Simmons said.

“I should be hitting 57, I can get there, I just have to hit my perfect throw.”

Fellow Salado thrower Rachel Hildebrand finished 12th in the girls shot put, failing to qualify for the finals with a throw of 38-6¾.

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