By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Kangaroo boys 800-meter relay team enters this weekend's UIL State Meet with the fastest regional time among all competitors and the Roo foursome of Columbus Givens, Noah Haggerty, Donald Fulbright and Juaquin Iglesias knows the importance of that.
Not a dang thing.
It's all or nothing for the Roo group as their final race of the season takes place tonight at 7:45 at the Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus.
"They'll be nervous out there, no question about it," KHS relay coach Billy Spiller said. "We've been working a lot on baton position and fine-tuning their form these past couple of weeks.
"People look at the big-city schools, but I also know people have our team at or near the top of their lists as well."
Nervous or otherwise, the Roos know that this race will put an exclamation point on three of the participants' high school careers and they're hoping for a fitting ending to their stellar careers.
"We're just going to go out there and have a good time, like we've done all year long," Haggerty said. "We're going to try and treat this like any other meet, even though we know it's not."
To say the least.
The Region II champion Roos enter the state meet with the fastest regional time of 1 minute, 26.34 seconds, with Houston Worthing (1:26.96), Fort Worth Wyatt (1:27.13) and El Campo (1:27.29) not too far behind.
"They have an opportunity to become a state champion and they know the importance of that," KHS coach Neil Searcy said. "Guys like Juaquin, who is going to Oklahoma next year, and Columbus, who is going to SMU next year, still are coming to practice working hard and are focused on what's ahead of them this weekend."
According to Searcy, despite the early success of the boys 400 relay team, he knew it would be his 800 relay team that would be the strongest down the stretch.
"Just looking at the recent history, I felt that the 800 relay was the best out of the three," Searcy said. "We really hadn't performed all that well until we got to the district meet and from there, we've been getting stronger and stronger."
The relay isn't the only item on Killeen's state meet menu.
Junior high jumper Steven Smith will take on other finalists at 2 p.m. On the girls side, sophomore Tiffany Townsend will compete in the 100 at 7:15.
Smith, who advanced to the finals with a second-place jump of 6 feet, 8 inches at the Region II Meet, will have a balanced group of competitors in the 4A finals. Of the eight finalists, five cleared 6-8, while El Campo's Arkeith Brown cleared 6-10 for 4A's top regional mark.
"Making it to state really means a lot to me," Smith said. "With another year to go, I'll learn a lot from this experience and hopefully carry it toward next year."
Smith credits teammate Anthony Hemingway for helping him make it to Austin.
"He's been my toughest competition all year long and he's really pushed me," Smith said. "I really want to do well for him as a way of saying thanks."
Townsend, who came in with a second-place time of 12.17 at the Region II Meet, will be in a group separated by a total of half a second between the best and worst regional times.
Among the favorites in Townsend's event are Fort Worth Dunbar's Victoria Jordan (11.81), Mineral Wells' Sandy Wooten (11.9) and Austin Regan's Gyaisha Hall (11.9).
Making a return trip to the state meet is Ellison senior Kymbra Lovan, who will compete in the triple jump after her regional-best mark of 39-6, the second-best qualifying mark in the state.
Only Pflugerville Connally's Brandi Standfield's jump of 41-9 was better than Lovan's effort.
The Lady Eagle standout will compete today at 4:30 p.m.
Gatesville's Jacoby Jones will run in the 200 tonight at 8:55 p.m. after posting the second-fastest regional time among all competitors with a 22.11.
Among the locals who will take to the track on Saturday are Copperas Cove's Donald Buckram in the 100 (6:45 p.m.), the Harker Heights girls 800 relay team (6:55 p.m.), Heights' Jermaine Jamison in the high jump (7 p.m.) and the Bulldawg boys' 800 relay team (7:05 p.m.).
Buckram, who finished second at the regional meet with a time of 10.7 seconds, will be among the favorites to medal, including South Garland's Matthew Harding (10.6), Houston Eisenhower's Randy Johnson (10.64) and Alief Alsik's Trevor Cavness (10.64).
The Lady Knights' foursome of Brittani Simmons, Shakeema Pittman, Denise Galvez and Danielle Brock (1:39.77) enter Saturday's race as one of the five teams that cracked the 1:40 mark in their regional events.
Krystal Jones will also be making the trip to Austin for Heights. Originally an alternate in the 100, Jones will compete as two other competitors were scratched from the event on Wednesday.
The other four teams include Houston McArthur (1:38.76), Arlington Bowie (1:39.14), Alief Taylor (1:39.54) and Mansfield Summit (1:39.65).
Immediately following the girls race, the Cove boys foursome of Buckram, Lawrence Foley, Diante Farley and Jerrard Milsap (1:27.68) will have Katy Cinco Ranch (1:25.8), Eisenhower (1:26.15) and DeSoto (1:26.45) among their tough competitors.
Jamison, who cleared 6-8 at regionals, will have to repeat his best jump if a state meet medal is in the standout's future.
Allen's Luke Barr and Cinco Ranch's Scott Sellers each cleared 7-0 at regionals, while three other competitors Galena Park North Shore's Jonathan Whittaker, Abilene's Lyle Leong and Longview's Terry Long also cleared 6-8 at regionals.
Sellers is the defending champ after setting a 5A record of 7-4 last year.
Belton's Grant Hightower will be among the favorites on Saturday in the long jump after posting the state's best regional jump of 24-4. Irving's Adron Tennell and Cinco Ranch's Queito Teasley (23-10) will be Hightower's toughest competition.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org