Brownwood High School student-athletes will have four opportunities to bring home medals Saturday during the UIL Track and Field State Championships — two on the girls side and two on the boys side.
Junior Kyra Young will compete for the second year in a row in the Class 4A girls 800 meters at 6:20 p.m. at the University of Texas’ Myers Stadium, then be the anchor leg for the 4x400 relay team — joining freshmen Alyssa Couey and Aleyia Cotton and senior Tristan Escamilla — that runs at 9:15 p.m. Trinity Buitron and Jaycee Lenz are listed as alternates for the team.
In boys action, senior McLane Moore tests his mettle against the state’s elite in the 4A boys pole vault at 3:30 p.m., while freshman A.J. McCarty squares off in the long jump at 4 p.m.
Young, the Region I-4A champion, finished eighth at state in the 800 last year after being delayed for almost six hours due to heavy thunderstorms that popped up right before her race.
“I hope it’s nice and calm,” Young said of the weather. “It’s supposed to be.”
Young enters this year’s meet with the fifth-best regional time of 2:19.68. However, Young set a new school record earlier this season by running a 2:18.24. The fastest qualifying time for state is 2:18.7, which belongs to Jordan Brock of Gatesville, followed by Hannah Thompson of Celina (2:19.65), Sandy Clarkin of Bandera (2:19.65), Alana Armstrong of Lorena (2:19.67) and Young. The rest of the state field includes Raye Moran of Anna (2:19.71), Tatum Fish of Bushland (2:19.92), Tina Sierra of La Feria (2:20.57) and Alia Henderson of Bandera (2:20.64).
“I feel like I have a real good opportunity to medal this year, but there’s going to be a fight for it,” Young said. “I’m pretty confident that if I have people pushing me it will push me to run even harder.”
Brownwood track and field head coach Don Hood said of Young’s chances to medal, “Kyra’s race in the 800 is as close on paper as anything I’ve ever seen. A half-second or so separates everyone so it will be fun to watch.”
Young believes the Lady Lions’ mile relay team — which only started running in its current alignment at the area meet — also has a solid chance to collect a medal.
“Everyone’s going to be fresh so I think we have a good chance,” Young said, “but some of the other schools have shaved down their times.”
In a driving rainstorm in Lubbock two weekends ago, the Lady Lions were clocked at 4:05.86 en route to earning the regional title by more than three seconds.
“It’s amazing really,” Couey said. “I never really expected this to happen.”
“We have a variety of runners, a couple of 800 girls, a 400 girl and I’m a sprinter so it’s crazy to throw us together and have it all work,” Escamilla said. “I think we can medal, but we’ve never really had any competition to push us.”
The rest of the state field includes Texarkana Liberty-Eylau (3:53.54), Dallas Carter (3:55.44), Carrollton Ranchview (3:57.96), Waco Connally (3:59.58), Waco La Vega (4:00.98), Wimberley (4:02.03), Ingleside (4:06.07) and Bushland (4:08.94).
Hood echoed Escamilla’s sentiments. “We haven’t been pushed yet with this group so I don’t know how they are going to respond if maybe we aren’t out in front and have to go get somebody,” he said. “But if they do what I think they’ll do, they can make a run at it.”
For Moore, his first pole vault effort of the season occurred during the District 5-4A meet, where he finished first. An area championship followed and he placed second at regionals with a career-best vault of 14-9.
“I really didn’t expect to go to state,” Moore said. “I just didn’t have the passion I needed for it whenever the season started. I came out for district just trying to help out the team. I ended up winning and the spark started there. I got going and won area and had some good momentum in regionals and just lucked out I guess.
“I just have a relaxed mindset. I don’t feel any pressure, I’m just out there having fun, enjoying myself. I’m not putting any stress on myself that I have to do good. I’m just going out there and doing my best and whatever happens, happens. I would love to medal and PR, it would be truly be something special and something I’ll be able to look back on the rest of my life. Other than that I’m just going to enjoy the atmosphere and the new experience while it lasts.”
The state field includes Riley Richards of China Spring (15-6), Clayton Fristch of Sealy (15-6), Alex Hindman of Seminole (15-0), Bryce Raders of Fredericksburg (15-0) and Cade Skuza of Jasper (14-9), along with Hunter Wigington of Midland Greenwood (14-6), Ryan Howard of Kaufman (14-0) and Wesley Culbertson of Paris North Lamar (14-0).
“McLane could medal,” Hood said. “He’s such a competitor and when he has to go higher he will go higher. We’ve done some things that I think will help give him a chance to do that.”
McCarty clinched his state berth on his final jump at the Region I-4A meet, which covered 22-7.5, good for second place.
“I knew I had to get that jump and I knew I was capable of doing it because I had done it before,” McCarty said. “I put it in my mind I could do it and I just zoned into the situation and thought about it, took a few deep breaths, and went out and did it. Afterward it felt great knowing it was my last attempt and I qualified for the state track meet.
“Out of the top nine in the 4A division, it feels good to be noticed as one of the top athletes in that event. Knowing I did something no other freshman has done yet at Brownwood, I accomplished a goal that I’ve been wanting. It’s really fulfilling.”
The rest of the state field features Trin Taylor of Atlanta (24-4.5), D’Juan Martin of Bullard (23-11.25), Dane Ledford of Argyle (23-7.75), Dalton Rigdon of Perryton (23-5.75), Ronnie Briscoe of Waco Connally (23-2.25), Julian Trevino of La Feria (22.9-75), Kenneth Bodwin of Stafford (22-8), McCarty and Irric Deyon of Palestine (21-10.75).
“There’s some people that can just flat out jump,” McCarty said. “No. 1 in the state right now is a 24-6, and that’s a good jump right there. My PR is a 22-8 but I know I can get further than that if I bear down and do what I’m capable of doing. I can get probably about a 23-6 I think, and that would be a good chance for third or fourth. Knowing what the competition is like is always good because you can go out and put it in your mind what you need, how to get it and you can work for that during practice.
As for possibly medaling as a freshman, McCarty said, “That would be great. I’d remember that for the rest of my life, especially if I got first place. That would be the best feeling ever. Then I’d just go out next year and improve even more. I’m going to keep working hard and improving because I know that’s what I need to do.”
Hood said of McCarty’s chances, “There are two guys that are head and shoulders better than everybody else and then there’s a bunch of guys that are really close. He ought to have a chance to be up in the hunt. I think he’ll score, but to medal would probably require a personal best. With A.J., I never say never. I don’t think he has any idea what his limit is yet.”