By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Tracy Ranes and Frank Wilson stared at each other in the track office, nestled in the heart of the Copperas Cove athletic annex.
Both did not want to deliver the dream-crushing news to a room full of hopeful teenage tracksters on Wednesday.
Ranes, the Bulldawgs boys track and field coach, clasped his fists and covered his face. Wilson continued to look straight ahead, trying to come up with the right words.
"How do you explain to the kids, who worked so hard all season long, that they're not going to be able to compete now?" Ranes asked. "I don't want to do it."
Reb Brock opened the door just past 3:30 p.m. and informed Ranes and Wilson that, "It was time."
The track coaches walked into the conference room where all the Region II-5A Track and Field qualifiers gathered. Wilson, the sprint instructor, took a deep breath and straightforwardly told nine student athletes they would not make the trip to Waco. The University Interscholastic League cancelled all regional track meets for public schools in Texas due to the threat of swine flu.
The coaches could not do anything. It was out of their hands.
Most heads in the room dropped. Others gazed off in the distance while trying to process the information. All the hard work on the track and in the weight room evaporated as quickly as the sudden news arrived.
"My goal is to get to state this year," said senior discus thrower Anthony Mackey earlier this season. "I won district two times, but I haven't been able to overcome that last hump."
Unless the UIL changes its decision, Mackey won't reach the UIL State Track and Field Championships in Austin. He won't even get the opportunity. Mackey qualified for the Region II-5A Track and Field Meet, but the UIL decided to take just the top four competitors in each region based on district results.
Mackey's throw, which occurred against wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph, puts him fifth.
"You just think there would be a better solution," said Ranes, whose team is in danger of not sending any athlete to state for the first time in four years. "You just want the kids to have a fair opportunity on an equal playing field."
Questions followed the announcement of the unprecedented step by the UIL. Was there anything that could be done? Isn't there a better solution?
Ranes had no answers. He still had questions like everybody else.
"We're still trying to go through this all and figure out what it means," athletic director Jack Welch said. "We understand why UIL made their decision, but it really breaks our heart about the kids."
UIL's decision didn't just affect Copperas Cove. Thousands of athletes won't compete at regional tournaments across the state. Hundreds of other schools dealt with wind or bad weather at district meets.
But that didn't make the pain hurt any less.
Ranes spent the day searching for options. He e-mailed UIL and called coaches across the state. His colleagues didn't have any suggestions while the UIL failed to get back to him.
All Ranes could do was wait and hope, but even those two options felt void. Instead, he cancelled practice for the first time since January.
"I couldn't make the kids go out and run," Ranes said. "Why practice for two weeks for no reason?"
And that's how the season ended for the Bulldawgs; in an office as opposed to the track. It all dissipated with someone's announcement more than 60 miles away in another office building, but one without any athletes' dreams to end.
"It's supposed to be about the kids," Ranes said. "But right now it just doesn't feel that way."
Contact Evan Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.