AUSTIN — Taron Lloyd stood in front of a bathroom mirror, disappointed and determined, and looked his reflection in the eye.
“We’ve got to go, we’ve got to get this,” the Shoemaker senior told himself.
Driven by a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter relay, the Grey Wolves’ 800 relay made amends, winning the event for Shoemaker’s third gold medal Saturday at the UIL State Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas.
“Being here since my freshman year, the struggles we’ve been going through at Shoemaker, from losing a lot of games in football, not making it nowhere in track — always making it to regionals, but not being able to make to the next level at state — this being my senior year, I gave it all I had,” said Shoemaker senior Johnny Jefferson, who ran the anchor leg of both relays. “I learned, as time went on, everything counts. Every 100 you do, counts. Every 200 you do, counts. I went to practice every day and I did. I did without questioning it; you see it got me here today.”
Cion Hicks won the shot put and discus for Shoemaker’s first gold medals in any sport since 2005 when Emerald Solomon captured the 215-pound division title at the UIL State Wrestling Tournament.
“It’s amazing and it’s a blessing because it got to be me,” Hicks said. “It could’ve been somebody else, but I got put at this point in time to come and bring (acclaim) to the school, something positive. ... It’s all about the community and the school right now, it’s not even about me.”
The Grey Wolves’ 400 relay fell short, finishing fourth in 41.08 seconds, but the 800 relay team, which had the nation’s best time coming into the meet, took the loss and used it to ensure they wouldn’t be upset on the state’s largest stage, winning in 1:24.21.
“We went through practice all week and we knew we had a big target on our back,” Jefferson said. “That drived us even harder, so we warmed up harder before we came out here, we prayed and we said we were going to give glory to God and we’re going to put it in God’s hand and we went out here and performed.”
Lloyd received the handoff from transfer Quasan Hill in seventh place and moved up to fourth before he handed the baton off to Jefferson, who’s signed to play football at Baylor.
Jefferson then took off and won the elusive gold medal the Grey Wolves’ sought and sacrificed for all season long.
“Lloyd had to give up the 200, I had to give up the 100, (third leg) Quasan (Hill) had to give up the 400 and (starter) Dwayne (Williams) got hurt, but he came back from his injury — we all had to give up something,” Jefferson said. “It’s worth it. We came out here, we put on a good show and we entertained everybody. But most of all, we represented Killeen.”
And it started in the shot put with Dickinson’s Lauryn Caldwell.
Caldwell’s final throw of final throw 46-3½ inches, topping the best mark by Hicks, who was the favorite coming in. Instead of settling for silver or bronze, the
Shoemaker senior stepped into the shot put ring and let everything come together as it was supposed to.
“I just had it set in my mind this was going to be a different story,” Hicks said. “I wanted the gold — I had a hunger to win it so bad. So I had to do what I had to do, perform like I was supposed to perform.”
Hicks threw the shot put 47-9 inches on her final attempt to win her first-ever state championship. Less than two hours later, Hicks won her second gold medal in the discus after finishing second in both events last year.
“It’s good,” Hicks said of the matching gold medals clanging against each other around her neck. “It’s a blessing to come back and take it all. Being there last year and missing it by a little bit, it just makes you a little hungry and I’m full, I’m full of gold.”
Hicks was dropped from first to second in the shot put when Dickinson’s Lauryn Caldwell threw her final throw 46-3½ inches, topping Hicks’ best mark by nearly five inches.
Hicks had the same thing happen to her earlier this season, though instead of finishing second, she finished third when two girls leap-frogged her for the top two finishing spots.
“That’s where my mind went automatically and I had tell myself, ‘Overide, overide — take that out of your mind,’” Hicks said. “I just had to say this is going to be a different story. So, I just crouched down, I prayed to Jesus and I went up and I just threw. I think my technique, everything kind of came together when it was supposed to.”
Hicks won the discus with her throw of 160-6, which she threw on her second attempt.
“My adrenaline was really high (after winning shot put), so my warm-ups were great, I was getting a good pull and I threw that in my second throw and after that it just felt great,” Hicks said.