‘Full house’ of nearly 1,000 athletes expected for Bluebonnet Relays

Derrick Stuckly / Brownwood Bulletin

“It’s going to be a full house.”

That’s how Brownwood track and field head coach Don Hood described the anticipated participation for this year’s Bluebonnet Relays, which will take place at Gordon Wood Stadium under ideal weather conditions.

Almost 1,000 student-athletes are expected to comprise one of the largest fields for the Relays since their return just over a decade ago. Hood added that more than 40 schools will be represented during the two-day event, which begins at noon Friday and concludes at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s a going to be a great meet,” Hood said. “The Lubbock schools are coming back — Estacado, Coronado and Cooper. All the Abilene schools will be here, along with Copperas Cove and Midland Christian. All of our district schools are coming, plus Burnet. We’ll also have lots of local schools like Bangs, Coleman, Jim Ned, Lohn, Veribest and Priddy. We’re starting to get some of the local schools back which is good because we haven’t always had that in the past.”

There will be a total of three boys and three girls divisions — Class 6A and 5A, Class 4A and Class 3A, and Class 2A and A with JVs included. Hood said some of the 2A schools have opted to compete against the 3A and 4A programs, and other additional adjustments could be made before the events start.

Field events for the boys begin at noon Friday, as do running preliminaries for the girls. Girls field events will begin shortly after the conclusion of the boys, estimated to be around 3 p.m., while the boys running prelims will start at 4 p.m., following the 3:30 p.m. elementary races.

On Saturday, the 3,200 meters begins the action at 11 a.m. with the running finals set for noon, following the national anthem.

As for Brownwood, the Lady Lions are coming off a sixth-place performance at the Belton Big Red Relays in which a pair of high school records were broken. The 4x800 relay team of Jessica Romero, Julianne Hood, Izzy Lawrence and Kyra Young placed first in the event with a time of 9:59.23, establishing a new top mark for Brownwood girls. Also, Romero placed fourth in the mile — trailing three Class 6A runners — with a time of 5:23.29, shattering the former record by eight seconds.

Along with the gold medal effort of the Lady Lions 4x800 relay, Kristen Fuentes, in the shot put (35-3), and McKenzie Cox, in the high jump (5-0), captured silver medals while Fuentes also earned a bronze in the discus (106-3).

“This team has the potential to be the best team I’ve had here,” Hood said of the Lady Lions. “We don’t have a Lexie Lewis-type superstar, but we have a whole lot of good girls. We’re strong in almost every event. I’m real excited to see how we stack up against Wylie, Stephenville and Graham and some other schools that traditionally have very strong teams, like Burnet.

“We’ve got some young girls that we took to Belton and baptized them and they responded, competed and stepped up, and that hasn’t always happened. I’m real excited about what their potential is.”

The Lions placed 10th overall in Belton and earned four medals — two gold, one silver and a bronze. Winning events were Chevy Robertson in the 400 meters (49.61) and McLane Moore in the pole vault (13-0). Hayden Day was the runner-up in the discus (153-1) while Paul David Quillin came in third in the pole vault (12-0).

“The guys are the hardest working group that I’ve had here from top to bottom,” Hood said. “We’ve had hard workers in the past, but we’re not having to chase people down. They’re showing up and they’re excited about seeing how fast they can run instead of what’s the minimum time I have to make. They’re really competitive and want to be good and that’s fun to coach.

“We’re still a little weak in a couple of areas. We’re still waiting to see if we can develop a couple of distance runners and in the shot put we’re a little thin, but we have some JV kids that might be able to help us.”

In regard to his weekend expectations for the Lions and Lady Lions, Hood stated, “These are the biggest teams we’ve had, over 20 kids on both varsity teams which is rare for us. Being at home, sleeping in our own beds and eating momma’s home cooking, plus having a chance to run in front of family and friends tends to be a 10- to 15-point advantage in most meets.

“I think we have a chance to win both.”