The names may not be as well-known, but make no mistake, the Ellison boys track and field team still has lofty expectations.
And after taking home gold in 11 of 16 total events Saturday in the season-opening Kangaroo Relays at Leo Buckley Stadium, the Eagles appear well on their way to achieving them.
Its really coming together. We know its not going to be perfect every time, but if we work hard and come together, itll be perfect when we need it to be, said Ellison senior Chris Hall, who ran the anchor of the Eagles first-place mile relay. Everybody wants to be better so we can leave a good lasting impression.
Even without the star power of former sprinters Prezel Hardy and Michael Bryan, who are now running at Texas A&M, Ellison is hoping a more balanced approach will translate into a third-straight District 12-5A championship.
Everybody wants to three-peat it, everybody wants that third district championship because who does that? So its really important to us, Hall said. The format was changed from last seasons relay-centric events, to a more traditional individual and relay combination.
Leading the way for the Eagles were a pair of senior champions in hurdler Lynn Grady, who took first in both the boys 110- and 300-meter hurdles with times of 14.77 and 40.53 seconds, respectively, and thrower Darien Brown, who won the shot put with a personal-best distance of 56 feet, 5 inches and the discus with a toss of 163-10½, which was nearly 30 feet farther than runner-up teammate Neito Hill.
Other gold medal-winning Eagles include Andre Sheppard in the 200-meter dash (22.68 seconds), Sean McBryde in the 400 dash (50.14), Hector Hernandez in the 800 run (1:59.83), Max Mayo in the 1,600 run (4:52.32), Silvester Harrison in the 3,200 run (10:12.72) and Devante Cloud in the long jump (21 feet).
Theyve come out and they want to be competitive. They have a tradition to follow behind the Ellison kids that have come prior to them, Ellison track coach Rick Coulson said. Its fun to work with this group of young men.
Grady and Sheppard were the second and anchor legs on Ellisons 400-meter relay team that took second (43:57) to Killeens quartet of Norman Crawford, DeJun Sylvester, Tommy Creer and senior Jaquail Haskins (43:39).
Haskins, who faulted out of the blocks in the 100-meter dash at the Class 4A state meet in May, showed the speed to redeem himself anchoring both the Roos 400 and 800-meter relays to wins, coming from third place in the final hand off to run away with the 400 by nearly two-tenths of a second.
Its a pretty good feeling because I know were going to come out and do something big this year, Haskins said. Its my last year, so we have to go to state, and were going to work hard just to get there.
Along with its relays, Killeen took first in the triple and high jumps as John Warren won the triple with a distance of 45-9 to beat out teammate Mark Thomas, who won high with a height of 6-2 in fewer attempts than teammate Ricky Pelzer.
On the girls side, Shoemaker made the most waves, sweeping all three relays, with speedy anchor Lekesha Jelks winning the 1,600 in the final 50 meters for a time of 4:12.97. Jelks also won the 400 (58.52 seconds) while the team of Javani Person, Dashunique Peterson, Aloysia Young, Kadeja Walker and Maya Little combined to win the 400 and 800 relays with times of 50.45 and 1:49.20, respectively.
I think the girls wanted it, said first-year Shoemaker girls coach Alexcia Sharpe. Theyve been ready for track season to start and thats what they brought. They showed that they were ready.
Also winning gold for the Lady Grey Wolves were Cion Hicks in the discus (113-9) and Tearra Roberson in the 300 hurdles (46.67), who beat out Memphis signee Maya Williamson of Ellison (47.7).
Williamson, considered one of the best hurdlers in the state following a fourth-place finish at the AAU Junior Olympics this summer, did take home gold in the 800 run with a time of 2:21.46, while fellow Ellison teammate Symphony Shabazz won the high jump by default as the lone entrant.
The host Lady Roos followed Shoemaker with four individual champions including speedsters Jamie West and Bria McIver, who won the 100 dash (12.79) and the 100 hurdles (15.36), and double-winner Brittany Mitchell, who took gold in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs with times of 5:38.70 and 11:55, respectively.