It is no small thing to make the state track meet in Texas.
In fact, it’s huge.
There are around 250 5A high schools in the state, and out of those 250 schools, track athletes or teams must be in the top nine in the state (first or second in four regions, plus one wildcard) to qualify for the meet.
Assuming all 250 schools have a track team, that means that just three percent of the teams, or individual athletes, will make it.
Here in Seguin, the track coaches are celebrating, as the 4x100 relay team, a freshman sprinter, and a high jumper will compete for state championships today and tomorrow.
Down the road in Marion, a pole vaulter is going to the meet as the prohibitive favorite.
It’s a big deal.
The relay team
The Matador 4x100 relay team qualified by winning the Region IV-5A meet in a time of 42.23 seconds.
The team of Dreshawn Brooks, Rondie Singletary, Tristan Moreno and Tavawn Williams, plus alternates Marques Washington and Jacob Berkley, won both the prelims and the finals at the meet.
Washington ran for Williams in the prelims, while Williams ran the anchor leg in the final.
“We were the number one qualifying team to go to the finals, with Marques running the anchor leg,” head coach Jonathon Nance said. “Then we put Tavawn back in for the final, and ran a little bit faster.”
Williams has been fighting an injury, so the coach opted to rest him for the preliminary race.
“He’s probably the fastest kid we’ve got,” Nance said. “It was good we put him back in for the finals, because when he got the baton, we were sitting second or third.
“It was neck-and-neck between the top three teams, but he took us to the lead and kept us there.”
Only the top two teams from the region make it to state.
Nance is in his first year as the boys track coach at Seguin, so he’s understandably excited that he’s got a relay team all the way to state.
“When I came in, I heard we had some talent and that we might be pretty good,” he said. “But we’ve been working on some things, how to compete, how to be a team.
“Track is an individual sport, but you compete for a team title, so you try and blend them together as a group.”
The event is loaded and includes the team from Fort Bend Marshall, currently the fastest team, not only in Texas, but in the United States. They have run a sub-40 second race, unheard of in the 4x100 relay world.
“I told the guys it was a good news, bad news scenario,” Nance said. “But they actually all thought it was pretty cool, that they get to compete against the best team in the country.
“I think we’re capable of running into the 41’s (seconds), each meet we’re setting a PR (personal record), so you never know what might happen.”
There is just one race at the state meet, no prelims, and the Matadors will run at 5:30 p.m. today at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus in Austin.
Nayla Harris is just a freshman, so for her to make the state meet in the 100 meters is even more improbable.
“She’s just a freshman phenom,” said girls track coach Liza Almarez. “She’s a little tiny thing. About 106 pounds, maybe 5 foot 1.
“You see her and you don’t know what she can do - you know she can run, but you don’t know what she can do that day.”
Sitting in third at the region meet coming out of the prelims, Harris made the finals race a blowout, winning by “three or four meters,” Almarez said.
Harris’ time of 12.23 seconds puts her eighth out of the nine runners to make the state field. But she is only .6 seconds behind the fastest qualifier in what is a very tightly-packed group.
“She’s so unpredictable,” Almarez said. “She was third in district going into the finals, and won, then did it again at regionals.”
The last two weeks the coach has been working Harris out of the blocks and with some speed drills in preparation for the meet.
“She’s like a sponge,” Almarez said. “You tell her what to do and she does it.”
Harris will get her one race for glory, as a freshman anyway, today at 7:05 p.m., about an hour-and-a-half after the relay.
The high jumper
Senior Mary Lee finished third at state last year, so she is the one athlete in the bunch who has state experience.
Coach Camron Austin is in his third year at Seguin, so he’s been coaching Lee in the high jump almost her entire high school career.
“I came here when she was a sophomore, and had already heard that she had a pretty good freshman year,” Austin said.
She was area champion as a sophomore, then last year won district, area and regionals before her third -place finish at state.
“She’s been there before,” Austin said. “But she was the only one (from Seguin) to make it last year, so it’s really cool for her to have some company this year.
“Last year it was a surprise that we had somebody going, now this year we’ve got some others going, so it’s kind of like we’re starting a trend for our track program.”
Lee only needed to clear 5-0 to win the region, but she’s cleared as high as 5-6 previously, which would put her in the mix for a medal again this year.
“She’s going up against some good competition, there’s a girl that jumped 5-10,” Austin said. “But she loves to compete. I was going through it last night, and she’s only not won at five meets in her entire career.”
Lee will get her shot at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
Junior Walker Rudisaile is the No. 1 ranked pole vaulter going into the state meet, clearing 15-6 at the Region IV championships.
“This year has been immense improvement over last year,” Marion boys track coach Myles Duelm said. “Not only has he gotten bigger and stronger, but pole vaulting has become a year-round sport for him.”
Rudisaile just missed qualifying for state as a sophomore, finishing fifth at regionals.
The junior also ran the anchor legs for two of Marion’s relay teams, both of which just missed qualifying for the state meet, finishing third and fourth respectively.
“His year-long training in the pole vault, coupled with him getting faster in running the relays, has been the real reason for his success,” Duelm said.
Rudisaile’s jump from regionals is three inches higher than his closest competitor, but he’s gone even higher.
“His personal best is 15-9, at the Texas Relays,” Duelm said. “It was at the same venue (Mike A. Myers), which is really cool.
“It’s been a very special year for him, because of his competitive focus, and his super attention to detail in his craft.”
The 3A pole vault starts at 10:30 a.m. today.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org