By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - Being the favorite didn't bother Copperas Cove's John Horton.
"There was no pressure," the senior said. "I like jumping in big meets, so knowing I'm the No. 1 is pretty good."
And Horton responded as such in the triple jump despite rainy conditions. The University of Houston signee twice went over 48 feet, taking first place Monday at the Region II-5A meet at Baylor's Hart Track Complex. His winning jump was 48-8¾, sending him to the UIL state meet again after finishing fourth their last year.
"With this weather, I think I did good," Horton said. "That would have been the school record if I hadn't broken it earlier, so breaking it in weather like this is pretty good."
Horton was the lone qualifier in the field events on the first day on competition, though a few others still have a chance. The top two finishers in each event advance to the state meet May 13-14 in Austin, with the UIL adding a ninth competitor for the first time this year. The ninth entry will come from the next best time or distance regardless of region.
That keeps state aspirations alive for Copperas Cove's Jason Hope (high jump) and Shoemaker's Cion Hicks (shot put). The two also get a second chance today in the long jump (Hope) and discus (Hick).
"Oh yeah, I'm ready for discus (today) - it ain't going to get me this time," said Hicks, who slipped on her last attempt due to the wet conditions.
Hicks' first throw in the finals went 39-2, pushing her into second place until N'Dia Warren-Jaques of Conroe Oak Ridge went 41-1¾ on the very next throw. That pushed her into first place, while Hicks went 37-4 on her fifth throw before a foul on her final attempt.
"It happened but I still got away with a medal, so it's a blessing," Hicks said. "That last step, when I turned my coach was telling me to reach for the toe board. So I reached - and that's what I'm supposed to do - but it's just the weather wasn't permitting me to do what I needed to do."
Hope led the high jump - he didn't miss a jump through 6-4 - until the bar was raised to 6-6. He missed his three attempts at that height, with North Garland's Justin Jones clearing 6-6 and Sean Spiehler of Humble Kingwood following on his final try to send Hope to third.
In boys shot put, Ellison's Darian Brown (53-5¼) and Nieto Hill (52-9½) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Hill's best throw was his first, while Brown not only surpassed his Eagle teammate but two other throwers as well on his final try.
"You always feel like you could have done better," said Brown, a Texas State signee. "I gave it my best today - I did what I could."
Also pointing was Belton volleyball standout Grace Weaver, who ended her brief high-jump career with a fifth-place finish, clearing 5-2 on her final try.