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2014 UIL State Track and Field meet preview

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Several Texas Longhorn signees/targets are among the elite athletes competing at this weekend's state meet.

Marquise Goodwin was one of several recent Longhorn football players who also made a name for himself on the track.
Marquise Goodwin was one of several recent Longhorn football players who also made a name for himself on the track.
The 2014 U.I.L. Track and Field State Meet will take place this Friday and Saturday (May 9-10) at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin on the UT campus. As usual, the list of qualifiers includes several names of interest to those who follow high school football and football recruiting, though the list of Longhorn football commits and signees taking part in the meet is smaller than in recent years. The meet will not be broadcast on TV, and in a change from recent years, it will not be webcast either, so the only way to watch the action will be to catch it in person. For those interested in attending the state meet, the full schedule and list of competitors can be found at the meet's official website here.

Some of the best athletes in the country will be in Austin this weekend, and there are plenty of good reasons to watch the state meet aside from getting to see future Longhorn football and track stars in person. You want dramatic storylines? The state meet will have plenty of them. There are several defending champions back to win more gold, some who are seeking their third straight state title in an event, and at least two athletes who will attempt to win their event for the fourth consecutive year! There are also several potential redemption stories, as numerous competitors who faltered at state when favored in previous years will make one last attempt at bringing home a state title to their school. Class 3A has a brother-sister pair who both have a good chance at winning multiple medals this weekend. And aside from all that, there are dozens of senior athletes who, though not favored to win their event, have still done well enough to get themselves to the state meet and will be representing their schools and home towns in athletic competition for the last time.

For more detailed commentary on some of the top competitors and notable athletes taking part in each event, as well as some underlying storylines, see below.

Listed here are the Longhorn football and track signees who will be competing at the state meet this weekend.

Texas Longhorn football signees competing
John Bonney (Houston Lamar) - 5A boys 4x400 meter relay (3rd leg)
Kevin Shorter (Newton) - 2A boys 4x100 meter relay (2nd leg), 100 meter dash, 4x200 meter relay (2nd leg), and long jump

2015 athletes competing who have Texas football offers
Jay Bradford (Splendora) 3A boys 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, long jump, and triple jump - committed to Texas A&M
Roney Elam (Newton) 2A boys 4x100 meter relay (anchor leg) and 4x200 meter relay (anchor leg)
JaMycal Hasty (Longview) 5A boys 4x200 meter relay (3rd leg) - committed to Baylor
Kendall Sheffield (Fort Bend Marshall) 4A boys 110 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles, and 4x100 meter relay (alternate runner)
Ryan Newsome (Aledo) 4A boys 100 meter dash
Deionte Thompson (West Orange-Stark) 3A boys high jump and 4x200 meter relay (anchor leg) - committed to Alabama

2016 athletes competing who have Texas football offers
Reggie Hemphill (Manvel) 5A boys 4x200 meter relay (3rd leg) and 4x400 meter relay (anchor)

Texas Longhorn track and field signees competing

Logan Emery (The Woodlands) - 5A boys 1,600 meter run
Zach Hamstra (Flower Mound) - 5A boys 3,200 meter run
Nicholas Meaders (Gatesville) - 3A boys pole vault
Barrett Poth (Klein Oak) - 5A boys pole vault
Reese Thompson (Argyle) - 3A boys pole vault and 110 meter hurdles
Wesley Ward (Flower Mound) - 5A boys 1,600 meter run

Lauryn Caldwell
(Dickinson) - 5A girls discus and shot put
Ariel Jones (Humble Atascocita) - 5A girls 110 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles
Kally Long (Wimberly) - 3A girls pole vault
Calie Spencer (New Braunfels Canyon) - 5A girls pole vault
N'Dia Warren-Jacques (Conroe Oak Ridge) - 5A girls shot put
Kara Zuspan (The Woodlands) - 5A girls 3,200 meter run

To qualify for the state meet, athletes had to first have a top-four performance in an event at their school's district meet, then finish in the top four in that event at their area meet, and finally, finish in the top two in that event at the regional meet, or they could earn a wild card bid to the state meet with a third place finish in their event at the regional meet if their time or distance was the best out of the third place finishers at their classification's four regional meets.

The competitors in each event (and within each classification) at the state meet are ranked by their seed time or seed mark, which reflects their performance at their respective regional meets. These are useful up to a point; the wind conditions were very different at some regional meet sites compared with others, and often the athletes' seed times and distances were not the best they've had this season. At the 4A Region I meet in Abilene, Dartez Hamlin (El Paso Burges) won the boys 200 meter dash with a time of 21.29 seconds, though he was aided by a tailwind measured at 3.8 meters/second, nearly twice the speed allowed for a time to qualify for meet or state record consideration (a performance in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 110 meter hurdles, long jump, or triple jump done with a tailwind above 2.0 meters/second is considered "wind-aided"). Meanwhile in Arlington at the 4A Region II meet, Kevin Harris (Texarkana Texas) won the boys 200 meters in a ridiculously wind-aided (6.5 meters/second) time of 20.68 seconds. Hamlin, Harris, and the other seven competitors in the 4A boys 200 meter dash will all be running in the same conditions on Friday evening, and who ran what time at regionals won't matter.

3,200 meter run
UT track signee Zach Hamstra (Flower Mound) may be the only runner of interest for Longhorn fans. His seed time of 9:29.60 is the slowest of the nine 5A state finalists, but his best time of the season is nearly eleven seconds faster. He's actually lucky to be at the state meet, as he finished fourth at his own district meet, but rebounded to finish second at area and third at regionals, earning the wild card spot at the state meet. In the not-too-long-ago era where only the top two finishers at a district meet advanced to the regional meet, Hamstra's season would have been over weeks ago. Austen Dalquist (Keller), an Arkansas track signee who has the sixth best 5A seed time (9:18.88), actually owns the state's fastest time in the 3,200 meters this year (9:00.49).

In 4A, Frisco Heritage sophomore Carter Blunt, who finished sixth at the state meet as a freshman in 2013, has the top seed time (9:18.69), as well as the state's 2nd-fastest time this year (9:03.10). Texas A&M signee Jacob Perry (Sanger) has the best 3A seed time (9:18.72).

4x100 meter relay
Texas Tech football signee Justin Stockton is slated to run the 2nd leg on Cibolo Steele's relay team, which has the fastest 5A seed time (41.14). Port Arthur Memorial, which has 5A's fifth-best seed time (41.39), features 2016 running back stud Kameron Martin running 2nd leg, and 2015 Texas Tech running back commit Corey Dauphine as its anchor leg. Nebraska running back signee Larenzo Stewart anchors Klein Oak's relay, which has 5A's sixth-best seed time (41.46).

In the 4A group, Humble Summer Creek has the fastest seed time, 40.93, which is the fourth-best time in the state this year. UCLA quarterback signee Aaron Sharp will run Summer Creek's 2nd leg. Fort Bend Marshall, whose relay team has 4A's second-fastest seed time (41.11), has 2015 running back Davon Crookshank (who was offered by Wisconsin last week) penciled in on the first leg, and 2015 cornerback stud Kendall Sheffield listed as an alternate runner. Lancaster and Texarkana Texas High both ran 40.92 in the preliminary heats at the 4A Region II meet and are tied for having the 2nd-best time in the state this year.

In 3A, Paris will be anchored by Texas A&M-Commerce defensive end(!) signee Josh Reynolds. 2015 defensive back Kris Boyd, who holds a Texas offer, will run Gilmer's anchor leg. Lightning-fast but diminutive 2015 running back Juwan Washington will run Kennedale's first leg.

Newton's relay team has not only the fastest 2A seed time (42.47) but also boasts maybe the best football foursome of any relay team at the meet. Leading off is Brandon Johnson, a senior who rushed for almost 3,800 yards in his career. He'll hand the baton to Texas signee Kevin Shorter, a star running back whose football career may be over after he suffered a spinal cord injury last fall. The third and fourth legs will be run by underrated 2015 athlete Calum Foster, who was offered by McNeese State last week, and 2015 defensive back Roney Elam, who has a Texas offer. In the 2013 football season, Johnson, Shorter, and Foster all spent time at running back, while Elam was Newton's quarterback. The four of them combined to rush for over 3,300 yards and 49 touchdowns on the season!

In 1A Division I, Panhandle's relay team is anchored by senior Tyler Hall, a star quarterback who will graduate as the state's 13th all-time leader in career passing yardage.

800 meter run
In 5A, the nine state finalists have run times that put them among the top 14 in the state this year. All nine have run under 1:55 this year, topped by junior Myles Marshall (Humble Kingwood), the defending state champion, whose best time in 2014 (1:51.53) is the best in the state and fourth-best in the nation this year. USC track signee and alleged Jesse James assassin Robert Ford (San Antonio Johnson) and Daniel Shelton (Galena Park North Shore) finished third and sixth at the state meet last year.

Jeffrey Moore (Carrollton Newman Smith) has the top 4A seed time by nearly a full second (1:53.46). His best time of the season (1:51.97) is the state's second-best and the nation's seventh-best this year. Junior Michael Johnson (San Elizario), who finished second at last year's state meet, has the third-best seed time (1:54.44) and is the lone returning 4A state finalist in the event.

The 2A boys group has four returning state finalists in Cody Hammond (Warren), Daniel Garza (East Bernard), Trevor Hemphill (Lone Oak), and Olin Moody (Crawford), who finished first, second, fifth, and eighth at the 2013 state meet.

100 meter hurdles
In the 5A girls group, Texas signee Ariel Jones (Humble Atascocita), who finished second at the state meet a year ago, has the third-best seed time (13.97). The favorite will be DeSoto sophomore Alexis Duncan, who has run a top legal time of 13.74 (good for seventh in the nation), and a top overall time of 13.36 at a meet that did not report wind information. The state record is 13.25, and could be within reach for Duncan.

In 1A Division I, Texas Tech track signee Kami Norton (Albany) will be pursuing her third straight gold medal. Her seed time (14.26) is over a second better than her top competition in the race, and just shy of the 1A Division I state meet record (14.19). More on Norton later.

110 meter hurdles

Defending 5A state champion and Baylor football signee Ishmael Zamora (Alief Elsik) has not only the highest seed time (a wind-aided 13.68), but the fastest time recorded in the nation this year. Zamora is tied with fellow finalist Chevis Armstead (DeSoto) for having the nation's second-best non-wind-aided time in 2014 (13.86). Armstrong, a junior, finished eighth in this event at last year's state meet.

The 4A field has two returning finalists in junior Kendall Sheffield (Fort Bend Marshall) and senior Jaylen Hunter (Denton Guyer), last year's second and fifth place finishers. Hunter has the best seed time (13.88), while Sheffield, perhaps the state's top 2015 defensive back prospect, ran a career-best 13.85 at last year's state meet but has yet to match it this year. Sophomore Norman Grimes (Canyon) is another top contender and has the second-best seed time (13.89). Grimes has the best seed time in the 300 meter hurdles and has also long-jumped 22 feet 3.25 inches this year. In other words, expect to see him again at the 2015 and 2016 state track meets.

Texas track signee Reese Thompson (Argyle) is tied for the second-best seed time in the 3A group (14.42).

The football star of the 2A group, though far from the favorite to win, is Mason Reed (Cisco), who signed with Texas Tech as a preferred walk-on. Reed has the slowest seed time of the nine 2A finalists (15.18). Jaylen Shans-Sheppard (Tatum) and Ismael Blackwood (East Bernard) return to state after finishing second and sixth, respectively, last year.

100 meter dash
Antonio Franklin, then of Euless Trinity, took third in the 5A boys 100 meters at the state meet a year ago, finishing in a wind-aided 10.45. He transferred to Irving High for his senior year and is the lone returning state finalist of this year's 5A group. Franklin's seed time (10.42) is second-best in 5A behind Arlington Sam Houston junior Darrion Flowers, who at his district meet ran the country's fastest high school 100 meter time recorded in any conditions this year (10.27). Other 5A finalists include Midland senior DeAndre Goodley, who was a very good slot receiver during football season, and highly-rated 2015 running back Patrick Carr (The Woodlands).

The 2014 state finalists in 4A include at least four future D1 athletes: Baylor football signee KD Cannon (Mount Pleasant), 2015 wide receiver and Texas target Ryan Newsome (Aledo), UTSA track signee Dionte Robinson (Baytown Lee), and 2015 safety Bryce Balous (McKinney North), who has been offered by Iowa. Also taking his talents to the next level will be Jordan Randolph (Waco University), who signed with Blinn College. Strong winds throughout the state led to some very fast times at the 4A regional meets, and six of the nine state finalists have seed times of 10.51 or better.

Emanuel Hicks (Mineral Wells) had the best 3A seed time going into the 2013 state meet, but was disqualified after a false start. He's back at the state meet for his senior year and will attempt to redeem himself, but he'll have to contend with 2015 Texas A&M football commit Jay Bradford (Splendora) and New Mexico State football signee Royce Caldwell (Columbus), who finished first and second at state a year ago. Also in the 3A final will be blue chip 2015 defensive back Kris Boyd (Gilmer), a top Longhorn recruiting target and a cousin of ex-Longhorn Curtis Brown.

Andrew Moore (Rosebud-Lott) is the lone returning state finalist in the 2A group. Like Emanuel Hicks he is seeking redemption after being disqualified at state a year ago, and he goes into the state meet with the second-best 2A seed time (10.52). The top seed time (10.46) belongs to junior Aaron Sims (Cameron Yoe), a wide receiver who scored 22 total touchdowns in 2013 for the 2A Division I state champs. But of the most interest to Longhorn fans will be the presence of Kevin Shorter (Newton), who committed to Texas while Mack Brown was still head coach, and had his commitment honored by new head coach Charlie Strong, despite the fact that Shorter sustained a spinal cord injury during his senior season which will likely end his football playing career. Shorter's seed time (11.38) is the slowest of the nine 2A finalists.

The 1A Division I group has some football star power of its own, highlighted by Oklahoma State signee James Washington (Stamford), whose seed time of 10.73 tops that heat. He'll be running against two all-state running backs in Terry Gilbreath (Wellington) and Justin Twine (Falls City), whose teams faced each other in the 1A Division I state championship in December (Wellington won). Gilbreath signed with Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State, and Twine - who had previously starred at 2A Hemphill before moving to Falls City before his senior year - has signed with TCU for baseball, though he is projected to be an early round pick in next month's Major League Baseball draft, so there's a chance that he'll never suit up for the Horned Frogs.

4x200 meter relay
The state of Texas dominates DyeStat's national rankings in this event. On the boys' side, relay teams from Texas high schools have run 29 of the 31 fastest times this season, including all of the top eleven. The schools owning six of those top eleven times will be in the 5A state final, led by national #1 DeSoto, whose seed time (1:24.24) is just 0.32 seconds short of the state and national record. DeSoto's relay team includes TCU football signee Nick Orr, who will run the second leg, while freshman Kaderren Nixon (a future gridiron star who got some playing time on varsity last fall) is listed as an alternate runner. Their top competition will likely come from national #2 Temple, whose team has run as fast as 1:24.99 and includes 2015 running back recruit Jeff Carr and Incarnate Word football signee Jamarkese Williams (more on him later). The four members of Temple's 4x200 relay team also ran on its 4x100 relay team, which recorded the best time in the state this year when it ran a 40.83 in the prelims of the 5A Region I meet, but got a DNF (did not finish) in the final heat and did not advance to state.

Also in 5A, Cibolo Steele's relay team features three of the four runners who ran on last year's seventh place state finalist, led by Texas Tech football signee Justin Stockton. Converse Judson - whose relay team finished fourth at state in 2013 - also makes a return trip, though with only two of the same runners it had last year. The third and fourth legs of Manvel's relay will be run by 2016 football blue chippers Reggie Hemphill (who has been offered, un-offered, and re-offered by Texas) and Deontay Anderson. Longview's relay team includes TCU signee Travin Howard on second leg, and 2015 Baylor commit JaMycal Hasty on third leg.

The 4A final may be one of the closest races of the weekend. At the 4A Region II meet, Texarkana Texas overcame a poor first leg to catch up to and edge out Lancaster. Texas High had by far the best 4A seed time going into the 2013 state meet, but was disqualified for a lane violation, so they're another team seeking redemption for failures at state last year. Their season-best time of 1:25.08 is the nation's third-best this year, and with Lancaster's team having run a season-best of 1:25.16, the 4A state meet record of 1:24.89 (set by Lancaster two years ago) could be in danger. Nacogdoches's relay team is anchored by 2016 blue chip defensive back Brandon Jones, while Denton Guyer's is anchored by Tennessee track signee Jalen Hunter.

The 3A state meet record appears quite safe, but the relay teams in that classification include some notable names. Kennedale, which finished third at state last year and owns the top seed time going into this year's meet (1:27.84), lists 2015 running back Juwan Washington as an alternate runner. West Orange-Stark, whose relay team finished second at state a year ago, has former 2015 Longhorn commit Johnny Shaw leading off, and 2015 Alabama commit Deionte Thompson on the anchor leg. Celina's team has 2015 North Carolina quarterback commit Nathan Elliott running second leg. Sanger's third leg will be run by junior Tre'von Jackson, who, in this writer's opinion, is the best 2015 running back nobody is talking about. And Ingleside's relay team will have its third and fourth legs run by a pair of senior football stars: Tristen Barajas (who had perhaps the quietest 9,300-yard, 106-touchdown passing career the state has ever seen) and Terrance Gross, who signed with Division II Tarleton State and finished third at the 2013 state meet in the 400 meters, back when he was still known as Terrance Robinson.

The 2A girls state meet record (1:41.18), which has stood for 15 years, could be in danger with Rosebud-Lott coming into the meet with a seed time of 1:41.44, and Jefferson (which returns all four runners from the relay team that ran a state meet-winning 1:41.24 last year) not far behind.

On the 2A boys side, the same Newton foursome that posted the best 4x100 relay seed time (Brandon Johnson, Kevin Shorter, Calum Foster, and Roney Elam) has the second-best 2A seed time, 1:28.57, which is over a full second behind leader Daingerfield. Ladies and gentlemen, smalltown east Texas athletes!

The top two relay seed times in 1A Division I are held by Falls City (1:29.20) and defending champion Stamford (1:30.27), whose teams are anchored by the aforementioned Justin Twine and James Washington, the latter of whom also anchored Stamford's state gold medal-winning 2013 relay team.

400 meter dash
The 5A final should produce some fast times. South Plains College track signee Devante Lacy (Klein Oak) has run the best time in the state and fourth-best in the nation this year, 46.88. Hard on his heels is Belton senior Cager Jack, whose seed time is 47.17 (sixth best, nationally). USC track signee Robert Ford, who is also competing in the 800 meter final, will be going for a 400-800 double win, but the odds are very long that he'll accomplish that, as he has the slowest 5A seed time (48.78).

In 4A, Baylor football signee Chris Platt (Willis) will be attempting an incredible feat: a fourth consecutive gold medal at state in the 400 meters. Unsurprisingly, he has the top seed time (47.60), but he hasn't approached the 46.64 he ran to win at state last year. Among those aiming to deny Platt a fourth straight state meet victory are Texas Tech track signee Steven Champlin (Medina Valley) and Eric Age (Lancaster), who finished second and fourth at state a year ago. Champlin finished fifth in the 100 meters as the 2013 state meet, and will also be running in this week's 200 meter final.

The 3A final will see return trips from Terrance Gross (Ingleside), North Texas football signee Terian Goree (Carthage), and Carson Ogle (Shallowater), who finished third, fourth, and eighth, respectively, at the 2013 state meet. Goree's 48.29 is the top seed time in the group. Also contending is Division II Henderson State football signee Darion Gray (Huffman Hargrave).

The 1A Division I final features the aforementioned Terry Gilbreath (Wellington) and Tyler Hall (Panhandle), both of whom will compete in three events this weekend.

300 meter hurdles
The top 5A seed time is by junior DeWitt Thomas (Humble Kingwood), whose regional time of 36.94 is tied for sixth in the nation this year. Also high on the list of contenders is defending 5A champion Vince Castillo (Donna), who ran a 36.71 at state last year.

Texas track signee Ariel Jones (Humble Atascocita) has the second-best seed time in the 5A girls final (42.04). Jones finished second at state a year ago. Also returning is defending champion and Oregon signee Alaysh'A Johnson (Spring), as well as last year's third place finisher, junior Raygen Smith (Friendswood Clear Brook). They all may be chasing Prairie View A&M signee Deonica Bookman (Allen), whose seed time (41.35) not only leads the field, but is also fifth-best in the country this year.

Canyon sophomore Norman Grimes has the best 4A boys seed time by nearly a full second (36.90), and it's currently fifth-best nationally. Kendall Sheffield (Fort Bend Marshall), who finished second at state last year, ran a career-best 36.73 at his area meet. The Grimes-Sheffield matchup should be a great one, though Robert Griffin III's state record of 35.33 (set in 2007) is likely safe for this year. Other returning 4A state finalists are Jaylen Hunter (Denton Guyer), Lafiel Smith (Lancaster), and Austin Ley (Boerne Champion), who finished fourth, sixth, and seventh in 2013.

The 2A group includes Stephen F. Austin football signee Jimmie Houston (Hooks), whose seed time (39.11) is third-best.

In the 1A Division I girls final, Texas Tech track signee Kami Norton (Albany) will attempt to win her fourth consecutive state title in the 300 hurdles. She also previously won state meet gold in the 110 meter hurdles (twice) and long jump, and as a sophomore she placed second at state in the long jump. She is entered in five events this weekend: 100 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles, 200 meter dash, long jump, and high jump, and has a top two seed time or seed mark in all of them. She set a 1A Division I state meet record last year in the 300 hurdles (43.71), and this year the conference state meet records for the 100 hurdles and long jump appear to be within her reach as well.

200 meter dash
UTEP track signee Darius Mitchell (Killeen Harker Heights) has the top 5A seed time (20.91). Among his competitors is fellow UTEP track signee Isak Washington (El Paso Americas) and 2015 Texas Tech football commit Corey Dauphine (Port Arthur Memorial), the latter of whom actually has the fastest wind-legal time in the group, 21.14, which is a top ten time nationally. You think Kliff Kingsbury is looking forward to working with him?

4A's defending champion Aaron Sharp (Humble Summer Creek), a UCLA football signee, returns, as does Tyler Junior College signee Kevin Harris (Texarkana Texas), who had the best seed time going into last year's state meet but finished sixth in Austin. Harris took advantage of a ridiculously generous tailwind at last month's 4A Region II meet to clock a blazing 20.68, the best high school time this year in any wind conditions. In winning gold at state last year, Sharp had to defeat future Baylor Bears Robbie Rhodes and KD Cannon, and future Longhorns Antwuan Davis and Montrel Meander. To win another 200 meter gold medal this year, he'll have to beat (aside from Harris) senior Elijah Morrow (Waller), who has the nation's fourth-best wind-legal time this year (20.99), future Colorado State Ram Jyaz Jones (South Oak Cliff), and future college track athletes Dionte Robinson (Baytown Lee) and Steven Champlin (Medina Valley), who have signed with UTSA and Texas Tech, respectively.

The 3A boys final has the most star power of all the 200 meter heats. UCLA track signee Leon Powell (Kennedale) has the top seed time (21.21), followed by Texas A&M-Commerce football signee Josh Reynolds (Paris), who finished fourth at last year's state meet. Joining them are Baylor football signee Jourdan Blake (Princeton), New Mexico State football signee Royce Caldwell (Columbus), and 2015 Texas A&M football commit Jay Bradford (Splendora), who is the defending state champion in the 3A 100 meters but is running the 200 at state for the first time. Bradford's seed time, 22.06, is only seventh-best in the group, but he previously ran a wind-aided 21.49 in the prelims at the 3A Region III meet.

The 3A 200 meter finals also feature a brother-sister act: the just-mentioned Leon Powell, and his twin sister, San Jose State track signee De'Andrea Powell (Kennedale). Both will compete in three events this weekend. De'Andrea has only the seventh-best seed time in the 3A girls 200 meters (24.68), but stands a better chance of winning gold in the 4x100 relay or 4x200 relay. She helped Kennedale's girls win gold in the 4x100 and silver in the 4x200 relays at the 2013 state meet, and she also ran on the 4x200 relay team that finished seventh at the 2012 state meet. The 2013 state meet saw siblings (and LSU signees) Tony and Bealoved Brown of Beaumont Ozen both win gold medals, and Leon and De'Andrea Powell have a great chance to accomplish that feat in 2014.

The 2A boys final is led by Incarnate Word track signee Austin Sandoval (Crane) and West Texas A&M football signee Luke Dacy (Wall), who posted seed times of 21.49 and 21.78, respectively.

Defending 1A Division I state champion James Washington (Stamford) has the top seed time in that classification (21.91). His neck could feel very heavy by the end of the weekend, as he is competing in five events (four individual and one relay) and has top-three seed times or marks in all of them.

1,600 meter run
The 5A boys final includes two Longhorn track signees: Logan Emery (The Woodlands) and Wesley Ward (Flower Mound). Ward's career best (4:15.68) is nearly six seconds behind that of current state leader Austen Dalquist (Keller) who has run as fast as 4:09.71 this year, while Emery's career best is 4:16.49, a time that got him sixth place at last year's state meet.

The girls' state record time of 4:43.58 is in danger, as the 5A girls final is led by junior Devin Clark (Smithson Valley), who finished third at state last year and whose area meet time of 4:46.94 is the best in the state and fourth-best nationally this year. Two spots behind her on the national list is La Salle signee Morgan Szekely (New Braunfels), who finished sixth at the 2013 state meet. They'll be pushed by a group that includes Rice signee Madi McLellan (The Woodlands), last year's second-place finisher.

It's quite likely that on Friday evening two runners in the 4A boys 1,600 meter final will be chasing their second gold medal of the day. Carter Blunt (Frisco Heritage) and Jeffrey Moore (Carrollton Newman Smith) possess the top seed times in that heat. Blunt will have already run the 3,200 meters earlier that morning, an event in which he likewise has the top seed time, while Moore will be a few hours removed from the 800 meter final, an event in which he has the top 4A seed time.

The 4A girls defending champion will make a return trip, as will four of the girls she beat. In 2013, Madie Boreman (Leander Rouse) won gold and set a new 4A state record of 4:48.16... as a freshman! The 5:00.11 she ran at regionals is the top seed mark and her best time of the season, and it is essentially equal to what her best time was in 2013 before her record-setting state meet performance. Attempting to deny her a second consecutive gold medal will be, among others, Princeton signee Natalie Rathjen (Highland Park), Lamar signee Evelyn Chavez (New Caney Porter), Krysta Martinez (Edcouch-Elsa), and Caylon McMillan (Forney), who finished fifth through eighth at state last year. Like Boreman, Martinez and McMillan are sophomores making their second appearance at the state meet, and they may just end up doing so again for the next two years.

The 3A boys final is another heat that seems likely to have a runner attempting to win his second gold medal. Texas A&M track signees Jacob Perry (Sanger) and Taylor Clayton (Decatur) have the top two seed times in both the 3,200 meters and the 1,600 meters, and four other runners will join them in both races. Perry's older sister Bryce is on the track team at Oklahoma.

4x400 meter relay
The 5A boys final features Arlington Martin, whose team has the state's best time this year (3:13.84), and the nation's second-best. Their relay team features a senior, a junior (2015 DB recruit Jared Phipps), and two sophomores, so we could see some spectacular times from them next year as well. Killeen Harker Heights has the second-best seed time and #6 national time (3:14.55), and its relay team is anchored by UTEP track signee (and 200 meter finalist) Darius Mitchell and led off by the even more promising Jevon Wallace, who last month at the district 8-5A meet ran the 400 meters in 49.97 seconds and triple-jumped 46'11". Oh, and Wallace is a freshman. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this won't be his last state meet appearance.

Elsewhere in the 5A boys group, defending champion Converse Judson has the third-best seed time (3:15.16) and returns three of the four runners from last year's state-winning relay team. DeWitt Thomas, who has the best seed time in the 300 hurdles, will run the second leg for Humble Kingwood. Conroe Oak Ridge will be anchored by senior Trumaine Jefferson, who will also compete in the high jump and long jump, in the latter of which he has the second-best wind-legal jump in the country this year (24'10"). Houston Lamar has Texas football signee John Bonney on third leg, and Manvel will be anchored by 2016 Texas target Reggie Hemphill.

The 4A boys final is highlighted by Lancaster and Humble Summer Creek, owners of the third and seventh best national times this year. Summer Creek beat Lancaster by a mere tenth of a second to win this event at state last year, and those two schools will be the favorites again. Fort Bend Ridge Point and Baytown Lee, which both have top-30 national times, also figure to be in the hunt, and they are the only other relay teams in the 4A final that have run under 3:17 this year. Taking the baton last and running the anchor leg for their respective teams are: UCLA football signee and defending state 200 meter champion Aaron Sharp (Summer Creek), third-seeded 400 meter state finalist Eric Age (Lancaster), UTSA track signee Dionte Robinson (Baytown Lee), Texas Tech track signee and state finalist in both the 200 meters and 400 meters Steven Champlin (Medina Valley), and Florida track signee and state finalist in both the long jump and triple jump Keandre Bates (El Paso Burges).

Huffman Hargrave, which has the top 3A boys seed time (3:21.31), is anchored by Henderson State football signee Darion Gray. On its third leg, Big Spring has junior Tobyn Tannehill, the younger brother of former Texas A&M and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And on second leg, Celina will have future North Carolina quarterback Nathan Elliott.

The top four 2A boys relays from the 2013 state meet return to Austin: East Bernard, Hooks, Sonora, and Whitesboro. Sonora has the top seed time (3:22.81).

Discus Throw
Zach Oliva (Smithson Valley) threw the disc 165'5" to win the 5A boys discus at last year's state meet. This year, every 5A state finalist has a seed mark at least five feet better than that. Aaron Akens (North Mesquite), a Sam Houston State track signee, has the best seed mark and has thrown as far as 186'1" this year. Richard Cervantes (Mission Sharyland), who has signed with Texas A&M-Kingsville for both football and track, has the best throw this season of the nine 5A finalists, a toss of 188'5" that ranks him 15th nationally this year. Other top contenders include Baylor football signee (and Texas football legacy) Blake Blackmar (Houston Clear Lake), Erich Sullins (Arlington Lamar), a first team all-state offensive lineman who got passed on by D1 programs because he's just under 6'4" and 260 pounds (he signed with Tyler Junior College), and West Texas A&M football signee Duke Kicinski (Justin Northwest).

Anthony Dudley (El Paso Parkland), the 4A boys favorite, is another redemption story waiting to happen this week. He has had two previous state meet appearances he'd probably rather forget. As a sophomore in 2012, he fouled on four of his six attempts and finished seventh, then in 2013 he came to the state meet already owning a gold medal from that year's Texas Relays and had one of the best marks in the state, but he fouled on five of his six attempts and finished dead last in ninth place. This year, the UTEP signee enters the state meet owning the state's best and the nation's fifth-best throw this year (195'7"), and has a chance to finally win the gold medal he's been capable of earning before. Among those competing against him will be Kansas football signee Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches), Navy football signee Josh Burrell (Fort Bend Ridge Point), and under-the-radar 2015 offensive lineman Ethan Reed (Little Cypress-Mauriceville).

Recent TCU football commit Mike Freeze (Graham) has the top 3A boys seed mark (177'11"), just ahead of defending state champion and Abilene Christian track signee Morgan Knight (Longview Spring Hill), whose seed mark of 176'10" appears to be a career best.

On the 3A girls side, Celine Markert (Yoakum) will also be aiming for a second consecutive state title.

Abilene Christian track signee Ryan Simmons (Salado) will go for gold once more after he came home with silver medals in both the 2A boys discus and shot put from last year's state meet. Among his fellow competitors are Ben Arbuckle (Canadian), who signed with UTSA for football as a preferred walk-on, and junior Jackson Tyner (Edgewood), who has committed to Rice for football and may play baseball for the Owls as well.

TCU football signee L.J. Collier (Munday) finished second in the 1A Division I state final last year but is the heaviest of favorites this time around. His seed mark of 194'2" is a top ten distance in the country, and over forty feet better than the second best seed mark among his rivals.

High Jump
Brendon Rivera (Edinburg Vela) has the highest 5A boys seed mark at 6'11", but two others in the group have jumped 7' or higher this year: Kansas State track signee Natron Gibson (Arlington Bowie) and Houston football signee Elton Dyer (South Houston), the latter of whom has cleared 7'1" and is tied for the best jump in the state this year. Other jumpers include Trumaine Jefferson (Conroe Oak Ridge), who is the top-seeded long jumper at the state meet, and Incarnate Word football signee Jamarkese Williams (Temple). Williams is also a runner on Temple's state finalist 4x200 relay team. Williams, a raw but big (6'2" 177 pounds) defensive back with great speed, was a late bloomer on the football field who was set to commit to Colorado late in the recruiting process, but the Buffaloes pulled his offer, and he ended up joining the impressive 2014 class at FCS Incarnate Word in San Antonio. I'll use this sentence to state that some program, if not int he Big 12 then at least in Conference USA, should have been all over Williams, if not before then certainly after Colorado dumped him at the altar, so to speak. Now back to track and field.

Friendswood senior Garrett Cragin, who checks in at about 6', has the best 4A boys seed mark at 7'. Iowa football signee Josh Jackson (Lake Dallas) and budding sophomore star Kene Nwangwu (Frisco Heritage) are among the other top competitors. Nwangwu, before qualifying for state in the high jump, ran the 100 meters in 10.71 and long-jumped 24'2.75" at the district 9-4A meet. He could very well be back at the state meet next year in multiple events, and he's also slated to be Heritage's starting running back this fall, so he'll definitely be an athlete to watch in the coming years.

The 3A boys finalists include defending triple jump state champion and TCU commit Tre'Vontae Hights (Yoakum), and 2015 Alabama football commit Deionte Thompson (West Orange-Stark).

The 2A boys are led by William Adams (Buffalo) and Joseph Anderson (Luling), who have both cleared the bar at 7' this year and are tied with several others for the fifth-best jump nationally. Anderson is the two-time defending state champion in the event. Artis Johnson (Rosebud-Lott), who finished second a year ago, also returns.

On the short list of the heaviest favorites in the entire meet is junior Blaine Listach (Waco Meyer), who is tied for the nation's second-best jump this year (7'1"), while the best seed mark among his eight 1A Division I competitors is 6'3". Listach finished third at last year's state meet.

Long Jump
Trumaine Jefferson (Conroe Oak Ridge), for whom long jump was a new event this year, enters the state meet with the top 5A seed mark (24'10") and the second-best wind-legal jump in the country this year. Six others have seed marks of 23' of better, including 2015 running back stud Patrick Carr (The Woodlands), Baylor football signee Ishmael Zamora (Alief Elsik), and 2015 running back recruit Julius Lewis (Mansfield). Zamora finished fifth at state last year in this event.

Brett Winnegan (Pearland Dawson) headlines the 4A boys field, as his seed mark of 24'6.25" is the nation's fourth-best wind-legal jump this year. Winnegan, a junior running back whose running style makes him look like a 5'10" 170-pound version of Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones, has four reported D1 football offers and could do both football and track in college. Fresno State signee Anthoula Kelly (Galena Park), Southern Nazerene football signee Kenton Mayberry (Mansfield Legacy) and Florida track signee Keandre Bates (El Paso Burges) are the other top competitors.

Defending 3A boys state champion and Texas A&M football commit Jay Bradford returns for his third trip to the state meet, and his 23'9.25" seed mark is the best in his group, just ahead of TCU football commit Tre'Vontae Hights (Yoakum), the defending state triple jump champion, who will also compete in high jump this weekend.

Texas signee Kevin Shorter (Newton) has the eighth-ranked 2A boys seed mark (21'11"). Shorter finished second to current TCU wide receiver Ty Slanina (East Bernard) at the 2013 state meet with a jump of 22'11.75".

On the 2A girls side is defending champion and Kansas State signee Chadnee Knox (Omaha Pewitt, whose seed mark of 18'9" tops the group. She jumped a career-best 19'6.75" to win state last year, and went 19' or further on two of her other jumps. The 2A state meet record is 19'11".

The 1A Division I boys final features three names already mentioned multiple times here: Terry Gilbreath (Wellington), James Washington (Stamford), and Justin Twine (Falls City).

Pole Vault
The state meet will feature the country's current top-ranked boys and girls pole vaulters.

The 5A boys group includes Texas track signee Barrett Poth (Klein Oak), whose seed mark of 15' was over a foot shy of his season-best 16'2.75", which ranks him #17 in the country. Poth finished sixth at state last year. The favorite in the field is Paulo Benavides (El Paso Franklin), who finished third at state in 2013 and this year is tied for the fifth-best height in the nation (17'0.5").

The nation's top-ranked girls pole vaulter, Desiree Freier (Justin Northwest) is part of the 5A group. Freier, an Arkansas signee who stands a mere 5' tall, broke the national high school girls outdoor record when she vaulted 14'3.25" at the Texas Relays, and she's poised to smash the state record 13'9" that she vaulted to win at state last year. She is all but assured to take home her fourth state meet medal, after winning gold each of the last two years and silver as a freshman in 2011.

The top 4A boys seed mark is by Jacob Wooten (Tomball Memorial), whose 17' vault is a top ten height nationally this year.

Texas A&M signee Emily Gunderson (Mont Belvieu Barbers Hill) is the 4A girls favorite, with a season-best vault (13'3") that ties her for sixth nationally.

Texas signee Kally Long (Wimberly) is making her fourth trip to state in the 3A girls group. She is the defending champion, and also finished second and fourth in her sophomore and freshman years, respectively. Her season-best of 13'6" is five inches better than the 3A state meet record.

The 3A boys final also boasts a Texas signee in Reese Thompson (Argyle), whose 16'3" seed mark is second best, behind Brandon Bray (China Spring), who is currently the #1 pole vaulter in the country with a season-best 17'6".

Shot Put
Felipe Valencia (La Joya Palmview) is making his third trip to state after winning the 5A shot put last year and finishing second in 2012. The Houston signee has the state's best and the nation's sixth-best mark this year, at 64'6". If anyone other than Valencia wins it will likely be Stanford signee Tristen Newman (The Woodlands College Park), who has finished second and fifth at the last two state meets, or Texas A&M-Kingsville football/track signee Richard Cervantes (Mission Sharyland). Filling out the 5A boys group but probably not figuring in the medal chase will be a trio of future FBS offensive linemen: Baylor signee Blake Blackmar (Houston Clear Lake), Oklahoma State signee Matthew Mucha (Houston Clear Lake), and UTSA signee David Anzaldua (Edinburg North).

In the 5A girls group, Texas track signees N'Dia Warren Jacques (Conroe Oak Ridge) and Lauryn Caldwell (Dickinson) have the second and third-best seed marks, which is the opposite of where they placed at least year's state meet. Both have thrown over 47' this year, but favored over them is last year's sixth place finisher, Meia Gordon (Cypress Creek), whose best throw this year (48'8") is fifth-best nationally. None of the other 5A girls finalists are reported to have thrown even 44', so this looks decidedly like a three-girl race.

UTEP track signee Anthony Dudley (El Paso Parkland), who as previously mentioned is the state's top-ranked discus thrower, is also an overwhelming favorite in the 4A boys shot put, as his seed mark (63'4") is over five feet better than the second-best mark.

4A girls defending champion and Alabama signee Haley Teel (Gregory-Portland) is back for her fourth state meet appearance. Her season-best throw of 51'6.5" ranks her fourth in the nation, and it's just under three feet farther than the best throw of any other girl in Texas this year. She also has the top 4A girls seed mark in the discus.

The 3A boys final is highlighted by Kilgore College football signee Ladarrin Anthony (Kilgore) and Texas State football signee Cedric Gambrell. Anthony won third place at state in 2013.

Tarleton State football signee Tavaris Owens (Whitney) has the best 2A seed mark at 56'7.75".

TCU football signee L.J. Collier (Munday), who should win the 1A Division I discus competition handily, has the second-ranked seed mark in the shot put (54'). Just ahead of him is Kyle Weiss (Panhandle), who finished fourth at state a year ago and has a seed mark of 54'10.25".

Triple Jump
Texas State track signee Alvin Chikaeze (Garland Lakeview Centennial) is the 5A boys favorite. He has the top seed mark by nearly a foot (49'5"), and also the nation's third-best wind-legal jump this year. Chikaeze attended North Central Texas Academy (formerly Happy Hill Farm) near Granbury for his first two years of high school, and while there he won two TAPPS 1A state titles in the triple jump, though he never received any real coaching in the event until he began competing at Lakeview Centennial. Kerwin Roach (Galena Park North Shore), who finished third at state a year ago, has the second best seed mark (48'6.75") and is the only other 5A finalist who has lept 49' this year. Also in the group is 2015 Baylor football commit Devontre Stricklin (Waco Midway) and West Texas A&M football signee Jaries King (Arlington Lamar).

Florida track signee Keandre Bates (El Paso Burges) has the top 4A boys seed mark by more than two feet (50'1.5").

Jay Bradford (Splendora), in his first year to compete in the triple jump, enters the state meet with the top 3A boys seed mark (47'5.5"). He's competing in four events this weekend, and though the Texas A&M commit probably won't win the state meet team title by himself, Splendora should place pretty high in the team points standings on his efforts alone.

Future Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington (Stamford) leads the 1A Division I state finalists with a 46'7" seed mark.