By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
With Leo Buckley Stadium and their District 16-4A track championship trophy behind, the Killeen Kangaroos departed for the Class 4A Region II track meet at the University of North Texas in Denton on Thursday afternoon looking forward to the two days ahead.
"We won district but we've got to move on," Killeen track coach Greg Russell said. "I want all of (our athletes) to get out. I'll be happy to get whatever we get. I'm not concerned about winning the region. If it happens, it happens. We've got to make it to the finals on Saturday. We've made that our first goal: compete on Friday and get to the finals on Saturday."
The Roos are sending 13 individual qualifiers, including seven district champions and seven who are competing in more than one event. Senior T.J. Hill's four events lead the group. Hill was an alternate for the meet last year.
"T.J. has definitely improved since last year," Russell said. "He went just as an alternate (last year) and then qualifies in four events this year. I think he's got an excellent chance in both the 300(-meter) high hurdles and the triple jump."
"I kind of got mad last year," Hill said. "I missed it by one jump. I've worked my butt off and I'm ready to take it to the next level."
Compared to the Roos, the defending region and state champion Copperas Cove Bulldawgs are at a numerical disadvantage with Tanner Brock and Anthony Mackey powering the strength of this year's Dawgs' defense.
Brock, who won the shot put at the district meet, and Mackey, who won the discuss, are just two of Cove's eight individual regional qualifiers in 11 events. The Lady Dawgs, on the other hand, will be following Tye'Sha McFarlin's lead.
McFarlin won three events at the district meet and qualified in two others for the Lady Dawgs, who, like their male counterparts, finished second at the district meet.
In addition to McFarlin's five medal wins, she also won the individual scoring title, as did Hill, though Hill did it without winning a single event.
But Hill's four-event schedule over the next couple of days, to him, is more like a high-stakes lottery opportunity in his senior year.
"I was really shocked when I made it (in all four events)," Hill said. "I'm really focused on the triple jump and 300 hurdles ... I'm just taking it one event at a time. I'm trying not to think ahead because if I don't show up and don't compete and don't qualify for state, it'll be a heartbreaker."
Donna Gilbert's first-place finish in the 800 leads the Lady Roos' five qualifying individuals. In addition to her qualifying finish in the 800, Gilbert joins the 1,600 relay team at the meet. Sharonica Roby also qualified with a second-place finish in the 400 and will be joined by Jamelyn Gregory (3,200), Traecia Nichols (shot), Monique Hines (discus) and Tiara McIver (triple jump).
It seemed that where Killeen finished first, Anthony Cotton finished kept pace for the Bulldawgs. Cotton challenged Hill for the individual scoring title with a pair of second-place and a pair of thirds
Cotton finished second to Killeen's Justin Smith in the pole vault and third in the 200. He was also on Cove's second-place 800 relay and third-place 400 relay.
Like Cotton, McFarlin leads a team of eight individuals at the regional meet and like Hill, won the individual scoring title, though with three first-place finishes. She won the 200, 400 and triple jump and finished second in the long jump and was a member of the third-place 400 relay that includes Koye Hickson, Traonna Shedrick and Monique Cain. Cain also appears in the 800 relay as does Shedrick, Hickson and Tiara West.
McFarlin is one of five that qualified in more than one event with Kelsey Sloan following McFarlin's lead with a pair of second-place finishes in the 3,200 and 1,600. Casey Stephens qualified in both hurdles events.
The Roos wanted to win the Kangaroo Relays ... check. They wanted to win their third district championship in the last four years ... check. Now, they want to send as many individuals to the state meet in Austin as possible ... whatever team hardware that comes along is golden gravy.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.