As the school year winds down, the hunt for gold is heating up.
Six Brown County entries have the chance to earn gold medals at the UIL Track and Field State Championships, which begin later today at the University of Texas’ Myers Stadium in Austin.
Early qualified for five events in the Class 2A portion of the meet, while Bangs will provide the other competitor. A year ago, the county sent just two student-athletes to state — both from Early.
One member of Early’s contingent should have considerably fewer butterflies in her stomach than the rest of her teammates as Jordan Manning is making her second straight appearance in front of the crowd of 20,000-plus.
Manning, who won the Region I girls triple jump championship with a leap of 36-10, placed seventh in the same event at state a year ago.
Manning’s regional distance is over a foot better than her best jump at state last year (35-5.75) and ranks fourth among this year’s state qualifiers, which should put her in the middle of the medal chase.
Chastity Foster of Woodville is the favorite heading into the state finals as her qualifying distance of 39-2 is over a foot farther than the second-best entry. Also competing in the event will be Cunneisha Foster of Altair Rice (38-0.25), Shakita Webb of Anahuac (37-10), Megan Murr of Junction (36-7), Angela Brown of Van Vleck (36-4.75), Portia Chriesman of Cisco (36-0) and Alexandra Barajas of Italy (35-9).
The girls triple jump will be the only event featuring local athletes today, and it is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Early’s best chance of earning a medal lies with Josh Conely simply because he will be competing in three events Saturday — the 100 meters, 200 meters and the sprint relay, along with Guy Henry, John Moore and Zac Harris.
The fact that Conely reached state in any event is a remarkable story considering a few short months ago he missed a handful of the Longhorns’ district football games due to a knee injury. Conely was able to rehab his injury, help the Longhorns football team reach the state quarterfinals and now he has a chance to capture a state championship in possibly his best sport.
Conely won the Region I 100 meters title with a time of 10.96, but he’s been timed as fast as 10.37 at the Bluebonnet Relays. Conely’s time at the Bluebonnet Relays easily tops any of the rest of his competition, while his regional time ranks fifth among the state field.
Also competing in the 100 meters — which is slated to start at 1:15 p.m. Saturday — will be Johnny Coleman of Maypearl (10.78), Greg Washington of San Antonio Cole (10.79), Fernando Ruiz of Santa Rosa (10.91), Broderick Meekins of Winona (10.94), Jay Tillman of Tahoka (10.96), Arthur Truitt of Mart (11.0) and Jeremy Brown of Whitewright (11.05).
Conely finished second at regionals in the 200 meters with a 21.98 effort, but again he was clocked faster at the Bluebonnet Relays where he ran a 21.16, which again beats any of the other state qualifiers. Conely’s regional time still ranks fourth among the state finalists.
The 2:35 p.m. Saturday start time marks the final competition for the Brown County entries, and joining Conely in the field will be Region I champion Aarrhon Flores of Floydada (21.61), Meekins of Winona (21.76), Coleman of Maypearl (21.9), Chris Tate of Hempstead (21.99), Kameron Horace of Corrigan-Camden (22.06), Carrington Peterson of Rosebud-Lott (22.1) and Austin Atkins of Holliday (22.22).
Conely, Henry, Moore and Harris coasted to the regional title in the 4x100 relay with a 42.84 performance, which ranks fifth among the state entries. Only one team broke the 42-second barrier at regionals — Hempstead (41.97).
The rest of the field includes Tatum (42.2), Arp (42.3), Hearne (42.35), Idalou (43.0), Maypearl (43.21) and Holliday (43.59).
Start time for the 2A boys sprint relay is 12:10 p.m. Saturday.
Kaleb Hopson rounds out Early’s state contingent as his runner-up effort of 52-11.25 at regionals earned him one of the eight spots in Saturday’s 2 p.m. shot put state finals. Hopson won district with a 53-5.25 performance.
The top qualifying distance among the state finalists belongs to Region I champ Sean Reagan of Idalou (56-8), followed by Andrew Wolridge of Lexington (56-7.25), Casey Keeter of Olney (55-0), Tomas Canchola of Refugio (53-4.25), Hopson, James Heather of Whitewright (51-9), Buck Thompson of Winona (51-1.25) and Terrance Galloway of DeKalb (51-0.25).
Representing the Bangs Lady Dragons at the state meet will be Danielle Finley, who will compete in the 100-meter dash Saturday at 1:05 p.m.
Finley placed second at regionals with a 12.61 time, after winning the District 6-2A title with a 12.32 effort.
Lexington’s Elydia Farwell owns the best qualifying time of 12.22, followed by Sydney Smith of Reagan County (12.35), Paige Klein of Alvord (12.47), Angelica Moye of Woodville (12.53), Martisa Carwell of Elkhart (12.6), Finley, Raisa Hargrow of Rosebud-Lott (12.62) and Heaven Hicks of McGregor (12.66).