WACO — When it was over — the hugs, the handshakes, the interviews and the pictures — Cion Hicks and Ashlie Francis took a walk up the track.

At that moment Tuesday, the sophomore thrower from Shoemaker and her Belton senior counterpart weren't competitors or District 12-5A rivals. They were friends.

The two can now add another moniker — state qualifiers. A day after both fell short in the shot put, the duo more than made up for it in the discus. Hicks took first place, with Francis also advancing with a second-place finish. In addition, district runner-up Jaricka Thomas of Ellison reached the discus finals and finished sixth overall.

“It's a tough district,” said Francis, who sent a personal best Tuesday but still finished more than six feet behind Hicks. “Cion threw 137 (feet) at our district meet. We've got good coaches and we've got talent.”

Added Belton throwing coach Dorothy Payne: “We kind of have been getting a bad rap, but we have some kids that do their job in this district and work hard to be good.”

The state meet is May 13-14 at the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium, with the discus scheduled for the final day.

Hicks saved her best for the finals after fouling twice in the preliminary round. That included a long toss that just landed out of bounds.

“I had too much adrenaline,” Hicks said. “I was shaking in the ring — I was ready to just throw it because I had a couple good warm-ups and when I was in the prelims, I thought I was going to get it out. But I just had to calm down in the ring and just do what I know to do.” Said Shoemaker throwing coach Merdith Shaw-Moore: “I just told her to relax — ride the horse that got you here.”

Her last three throws were the best three in the competition. That included her first-place toss of 133-5. Hicks entered the finals with the sixth-best throw to that point, but opened with a 132-10 to take the lead.

“I wasn't shaking anymore — I was calm,” Hicks said of the first finals throw. “I knew it wasn't over, but at the same time, it gave me a comfort that I could step back and just breathe a little bit.” For Francis, her showing was a year in the making. She reached regionals last year, but didn't get out of prelims.

“I told (head) coach (Denise) Petter, ‘I'm not stopping at region next year — I'm going to state,'” said Francis, adding she shook off thoughts that her declaration was just anger.

Her opening throw (120-1) was the second-best going into the finals, and she responded after Hicks went 132-10 and Gabrielle Greer of Klein Collins went 124-1. Francis tossed a 127-1, putting her in front of everyone except Hicks and sending her to Austin.

“This is full year in the making,” Francis said. “And it's paying off.”

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