By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Kangaroo and Ellison Eagle track and field programs each have excellent chances to send several to the UIL State Meet just by the sheer volume of competitors at today's Region II Meet at the University of North Texas, which kicks off today at noon.
The main reason for that theory? The Roos have at least one participant in every event, two in five events and three in two events.
On the boys side, Killeen, which dismantled the competition at the District 16-4A meet with 247 points, will be looked upon as one of the favorites going in for a Region II team title.
Among the Roos' three-packs include Bryson Haggerty, Tim Odie and Donald Fulbright in the 100 and Zach Davis, Harry Davis and Willie Freeman in the 800.
"It shows how deep we are to be able to qualify three athletes in a couple of different events," KHS coach Neil Searcy said. "I think we've got an excellent shot at it. I think it's going to come down to our individual events and as long as our relays do their job, we'll be in good shape."
But the key for Killeen's success will come from its relays, where all three foursomes won district titles in their events.
In addition to their abilities, the relay squads have already faced some of the region's toughest competition earlier this season at the Kangaroo Relays and they held their own.
Among those in the running is pole vaulter Jovanni Jenkins, who earned a trip to the state meet a year ago and has already cleared 15 feet earlier this year at the Texas Relays. The senior earned a spot by clearing 13-0 at the district meet.
"I think he's got a great shot at earning a state meet slot," Searcy said. "We've got a couple of strong pole vaulters with Jovanni and Quinton (Reese)."
In the shot put, senior James Tyson's mark of 53-10 was the best among any Region II qualifier. "There's some good throwers, but I think James has a real good shot at not only qualifying, but winning the region," Searcy said.
Sylvester Young, took home the district gold in the 400 two weeks ago, will have some stiff competition, including Lancaster's Rodney Mims, Dallas Lincoln's Jamiel Mauldin and Crowley's Randall Hairston.
Other Roos to advance to Denton include Karl Kmiecik in the 1,600 and 3,200, Leroy Johnson and Andrew Gumbs in the triple jump, Anthony Hemingway and Steven Smith in the high jump, Keith Ladson in the long jump, Jerry Benton and Tyson in the discus, Harry Davis in the 800, Chris Johnson in the 110 hurdles and Odie in the 200.
For the Eagle boys, the combination of Javarise Donald and Richard Sanders will both be in the running for a slot in Austin, but coach Shon Williams knows how tough this field will be.
"There's some fast cats out here, that's for sure," Williams said. "I'd love to see them improve on their district times and hit their best times of the year. That's all you can ask of them."
Two individual competitors Dino Buchanan in the 400, Javarise Donald and Richard Sanders in the 300 hurdles and the Eagle 400 and 1,600 relay teams will be in action this weekend.
On the girls side, the Lady Eagles, champions of District 16-4A and Region III champs a year ago, will also be well represented in Denton with all three relay teams and 13 individual competitors in attendance.
"The girls love to compete and that's what we've been trying to emphasize all season long," EHS girls coach Bren Jones said. "I think our experience will be a big advantage for us as well. Our goal is to get everyone running on Saturday (in the finals)."
Multiple qualifiers for Ellison include senior Kymbra Lovan who will compete in the triple jump, high jump as well as the 400 and 800 relays.
"She's had some nagging injuries, but when she's healthy and she puts her mind to it, she can accomplish anything," Jones said.
Alesha Walker, a double-district champ in the long jump and 100 hurdles as well as being a member on the district champion 100 and 200 relay teams, will be equally busy this weekend.
Jazmin Dickens posted the region's top mark in the discus with a throw of 140-10 and should be the favorite heading into today's action.
Like any good track and field team, the Lady Eagles are well equipped in the relay department, where they will be represented in all three events.
Other Lady Eagles in competition this weekend include Samantha Hamilton in the triple jump, long jump and 300 hurdles, Michelle Johnson in the 400, Casandra Adams in the 300 hurdles, Dora Alfred in the 200 and Demetria Pace in the 1,600.
For the Lady Roos, they are led by their 800 relay foursome of Denise Marion, LaDawn Spiller, Tiara Taylor and Tiffany Townsend, who finished right behind Ellison at the District Meet and posted the second-fastest time among all regional competitors.
"It's going to be anybody's race out there," KHS girls coach Leah Cannon said. "One bad handoff could mean all the difference. We're young and this trip will be a great experience for our girls."
District champions Mimi Williams (shot put) and Tiffany Townsend (200) will lead Killeen's squad into Denton.
Others in attendance include Amanda McHaney in the pole vault, Spiller in the long jump, the Lady Roos 400 relay team, Jessica Benson in the 800 and Townsend in the 100.
The top two in each event will qualify for the UIL State Meet, slated for May 13-14 in Austin. In addition, the best third-place performance among all four regions will also earn a trip to the state meet.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org