By Angel Verdejo and Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
AUSTIN - For the record, Kyle Thompson finished fifth in the 800-meter run at the state track and field meet as a freshman three years ago in Idaho.
He hasn't lost a state meet in his signature event since.
The Harker Heights senior made it 3-for-3 on Saturday at the UIL State Track & Field Championships at the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium, taking the early lead and never looking back.
Competing on the same track where he'll run in college, Thompson threw up the University of Texas' patented "Hook'em, Horns" sign when he crossed the finish line, winning the race with a time of 1:50.54.
"It's just now hitting me," said Thompson, who ran 1:50.80 to win 5A gold last year after winning the 6A race in Kansas as a sophomore (1:56.21). "It's crazy - just coming into this seeing everyone else's times, it was almost up for grabs today. It's a good feeling being able to pull it off for three years."
Despite leading the entire way, Thompson said he wouldn't mind being behind at some point.
"I love to kick in a race - that's always the most exciting part for me," said Thompson, who also finishing eighth in the 400. "There's nothing better than out-kicking a person - it's just a great feeling."
It's one Thompson didn't have to experience Saturday. His District 12-5A rival - Ellison's Hector Hernandez - however, did.
Finishing second to Thompson at both the 12-5A and Region II-5A meets, Hernandez again found himself behind Thompson, when, in the final 200 meters, Flower Mound Marcus' Sean Canavin took over second.
"I just knew that I had to go, so that's what I did - I went all out," Hernandez said. "I didn't know how much I had left, but I just gave everything I had."
Hernandez overtook Canavin and took silver (1:51.35), knocking nearly two second off his time from the region meet. And with Thompson graduating, the second place finish could set up the Eagles junior for a quality senior campaign.
"It feels pretty good knowing that he's not going to be there," Hernandez said jokingly. "He beat me at district, he beat me at regionals and he beat me at state."
Gilbert makes most of wild-card opportunity
Regan Gilbert would have liked a different color medal.
But despite a mild disappointment, the Harker Heights senior vaulter was pleased after qualifying as a wild card entrant to the 5A state meet,
"I really would have been happier with gold," Gilbert said. "Silver isn't a very pretty color."
Gilbert finished second in the pole vault with a personal-best and school-record mark of 16-feet, 6-inches, a mere three inches behind junior champion Reese Watson of Spring.
"Really, I wanted 17-0. But 16-6 is good," Gilbert said. "I'll probably be happier tomorrow."
Gilbert was the first athlete to clear 16-feet and was left waiting as his opposition went down one by one. When it was time to raise the bar to 16-6, only Gilbert and Watson remained. Again, Gilbert cleared it on his first attempt. Watson, meanwhile, struggled with the height, knocking the bar down on his first two attempts. On the third, though, he only nudged it and the bar remained in place.
Then at 16-9, Watson was the first and only one to clear the height, as Gilbert missed on all three jumps.
Francis, Hicks go 8-9 in discus Cion Hicks was nervous.
The Shoemaker sophomore finished ninth, throwing 129-1 in the discus, but said her experience will give her something to build on the next two years.
"It was really great coming in," Hicks said. "After my nerves went away, I think I did pretty much what I came here to do. Next year when I come back I won't be scared or nervous because I will know what to expect. "
Belton's Ashlie Francis had the second best opening throw of the competition - setting a personal-best by more than five feet (132-9) - but as it went on she gradually moved down the leaderboard.
"It is pretty intimidating," Francis said. "I threw my best by several feet, but there are really good girls out here."