COPPERAS COVE — Grace Weaver just wanted to work on her vertical.The two-time Daily Herald Volleyball Most Valuable Player is headed to Tulane in the fall.

She’ll go as a district champion in track and field, too. In her first year competing in the high jump, the Belton senior was the only jumper to go past five feet Wednesday at the District 12-5A meet at Copperas Cove’s Bulldawg Stadium.

Weaver cleared 5-foot-4 for a personal best, missing three times when she tried 5-6. Harker Heights’ Ambrya Mack was one of seven jumpers to clear 5-0, taking second place.

“In eighth grade I did triple jump and long jump, but I wasn’t good,” Weaver said. “But I figured why not? In the last year, my vertical has gone up a lot ... This is as much in shape as I’ve ever been in my life.”

It didn’t start that way.

“I was awful at the beginning — so bad,” Weaver said. “And I’ve never been a district champion. It means a lot, even though it’s not in my first sport, it’s still a big thing.”Weaver wasn’t alone in earning gold in Wednesday’s field events.

Harker Heights’ Regan Gilbert won the boys pole vault, Shoemaker’s Cion Hicks claimed the girls discus title with a toss of 137-6, and Ellison’s Darian Brown won the boys shot with a distance of 56-2 ¾.In addition, Copperas Cove’s Orlando Thomas led a 1-2-3 Bulldawg finish in the long jump a day after they did the same in the triple jump.

Also advancing to the Region II-5A meet are Ellison’s Jaricka Thomas (120-10) and Belton’s Ashlie Francis (120-7), who finished second and third in the girls discus behind Hicks. In addition, third-place finishers Neito Hill (boys shot put) of Ellison and Heights’ Alithea Collins (girls triple jump) move on as well.

Gilbert started slow, missing once at 14-0 and 14-6, but clearing 15-0 while Belton’s Kyle Rhoads missed three attempts to finish second.

“Definitely wanted more,” said Gilbert, a Kansas signee. “Last week, I did good at Texas Relays and this week — I don’t know if it was nerves to qualify or whatnot, but I just wasn’t doing what I needed to do to jump higher.”

Gilbert didn’t start jumping until the bar reached 14-0 — something he’s used to — but said he waited too long to begin his warmup, which led to rushing his opening jumps.He cleared the first two heights on his second jump, clearing 15-0 with little trouble.

“Once I saw that I was going to qualify, it was kind of a big stress reliever because I didn’t have to worry about it anymore,” Gilbert said. “But then again, it was also bad because then my adrenaline went away because I wasn’t so excited.”

In the long jump, Thomas, John Horton and Jason Hope had their eyes set on the school record (24-3 ½), set by Quinten Conner in 1995 and matched by Vontez Duff five years later. The Cove jumpers have already set new marks in the triple and high jump.|

Horton led the 1-2-3 triple jump finish Tuesday, but couldn’t pass Conner or his teammate, Thomas, on Wednesday in the long jump. Thomas, a Texas commit, fell an inch shy of Cove’s record. Horton (23-6 ¾) finished second with Hope (22-10 ½) taking third.

“We were trying to break that record,” said Horton, a University of Houston signee. “...but we have two more meets to get it.”{jacomment off}


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