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2018 U.I.L. state track meet preview

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Eight future Longhorns will be among the state finalists competing in Austin this weekend

2017 Texas Longhorn football signee Montrell Estell (Hooks) runs a leg of the 3A boys 4x200 meter relay at the Texas state track meet on May 13, 2017.
Joe Cook (Inside Texas)

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) Track & Field State Meet, the championship event for that sport for Texas’s public schools, will take place Friday and Saturday in Austin at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the UT campus. The event annually features some of the nation’s elite track athletes, and as is often the case there are a number of future Texas Longhorns among the athletes scheduled to compete.

In this post I’ll list all of the Texas football or track signees who will be participating, and then go through the classifications from Class 6A on down to 1A, naming many athletes and events to watch in each one. The top athletes tend to be concentrated in the classifications with the largest schools (6A and 5A), and there is much greater depth of elite athletes at the higher levels than in the lowest classifications, but there are very good athletes to be found among the small schools as well.

One of the best 800 meter runners in Texas history attends a 1A school with an enrollment under 70.

The only three high jumpers in the state to clear 7 feet this year come from the 3A and 2A levels, as do two of the state’s top pole vaulters. Likewise, the only girl in the state (and one of only two in the nation) to high jump 6 feet this year attends a 2A charter school.

The top thrower among the 1A girls is a Texas legacy who is only a sophomore and already holds a state meet record.

There’s a pair of twin sisters in Class 3A who already own 14 state meet gold medals and will very likely be adding to that total this week before they take their talents to Duke after graduation. Another 3A girls finalist attends a south Texas charter school and will be running for UT at this time next year.

Elsewhere in Class 3A is a state finalist in two sprinting events who will also be the favorite in next week’s state tennis tournament, and he’s only a sophomore.

For readers who are track enthusiasts or just sports fans in general, compelling storylines abound throughout the six classifications: there are returning champions looking to win repeat titles, future college athletes, potential record-breakers, state meet returnees looking to win gold medals that have previously eluded them, and seniors making their first trip to the state meet and hoping to end their high school athletic careers on the highest of notes. I won’t do a capsule on every event and favored athlete (otherwise this thing would run well over 25,000 words) but I will profile many of them.

The Track & Field State Meet’s website has the meet’s full schedule, heat sheets with the qualifiers for each event and their seed marks/times, directions to Mike A. Myers Stadium, and other information. The first events will begin early Friday morning, and the meet will conclude on Saturday night.

First, a reminder of what it takes for a track & field athlete to qualify for the state meet. Starting in early April, each district holds its district track meet, and the top four finishers in each event qualify for the area meets, which are comprised of the top athletes from two “neighboring” districts (i.e. Districts 1 and 2 in Class 6A, or Districts 9 and 10 in Class 4A). The top four finishers in each event at the area meet level qualify for their regional meet. Each classification has four regions, and the top two finishers in each event at the regional meets are automatically qualified for the state meet, and those eight will be joined by a ninth “wild card” finalist, which is the top performer among the four third-place finishers at regionals within each classification.

I will frequently refer to meet participants’ “seed time” or “seed mark”, as noted on the state meet’s heat sheets. Those times and marks refer to the state finalists’ performance at their regional meet, and does not necessarily represent their top performance this season or for their career. Also, the terms “wind legal” or “wind-aided” will refer to the wind conditions (if known) during a particular sprinting or field event. A performance is considered wind-aided if there is a tail wind exceeding 2.0 meters per second, and those are therefore not eligible for state or meet record consideration. You can read more about that here.

Texas Longhorns football signees competing at the state track meet

Keaontay Ingram (Carthage) - 4A boys 4x100 meter relay (3rd leg) and triple jump

The four-star running back recruit has the fourth-best seed mark in the 4A triple jump final, having jumped 46’6” at the 4A Region II meet. Three of his opponents have jumped 47 or more this season, led by Sealy senior Tyrek McNeese, who jumped 49’9” at the Texas Relays. Ingram is also set to run the 3rd leg of Carthage’s 4x100 meter relay team, which has the third-best seed time (41.83). Worth noting: during the sprint relay he’ll be separated by one lane from touted 2019 running back prospect Daimarqua Foster (Wichita Falls Hirschi), who will likewise run his team’s 3rd leg. Foster produced nearly 3,500 yards from scrimmage last fall and was named the 4A Offensive Player of the Year by the Texas AP Sports Editors. He has been offered by Baylor, Houston, SMU, and Texas Tech.

Joshua Moore (Yoakum) - 3A boys long jump, 4x100 meter relay (3rd leg), and 4x400 meter relay (alternate)

Moore spent last spring at IMG Academy in Florida before transferring back to Yoakum before the start of his senior year, so he did not participate in track last spring, but as a sophomore in 2016 he finished 4th in the 4A long jump final (22’10.25”). He has the top seed mark among this year’s 3A finalists (23’6.25”), and he has jumped over 23 feet at his district, area, and regional meets. Two of the other 3A finalists have jumped 23’6” this season. Moore’s personal record in the long jump is 24’5”, which he jumped at the 4A Region IV meet in 2016.

Moore also runs the 3rd leg for Yoakum’s 4x100 meter relay squad, which has the sixth-best seed time (42.94). On that relay Moore hands the baton to Yoakum’s anchor leg: his twin brother Jordan, the Texas A&M football signee.

Yoakum’s 4x400 meter relay also has the sixth-best seed time (3:23.15). Jordan Moore is listed as the 2nd leg, while Joshua is listed as an alternate runner on the 3A meet’s heat sheet.

Texas Longhorn track & field signees competing at the state track meet -

Alex Loving (Amarillo) - 5A boys long jump

Loving, who will be competing in his first state meet, is expected to compete in the decathlon once he joins the UT track program. As a sprinter, he was twice his district’s champion in the 100 meters and also won a district title in the 200 meters. As a high jumper he has cleared 6’8”, and in the long jump - arguably his best event - he has regularly jumped over 23 feet this season, with a personal best 24’4.5” at a March meet. He has not lost a long jump competition this season and is tied with Lancaster freshman Ketron Jackson for the best long jump in the state. Jackson is also in the 5A long jump final. In all, six of the nine 5A finalists have jumped 23 feet or more this season.

Warren Miller (Tolar) - 3A boys pole vault

Miller is the defending 3A state champion in the pole vault and a Longhorn legacy. His father Scotty Miller (currently the head volleyball and track coach at Tolar) competed in the pole vault at Texas and earned All-American honors in 1991. The younger Miller is making his third and final trip to the state meet at Mike A. Myers Stadium, which will be his home stadium at this time next year. As a freshman, Miller cleared 12’ but didn’t advance past his district meet. As a sophomore in 2016 he cleared a then career-best 14’9” to finish 3rd at the 2A state meet. Tolar moved up to Class 3A the following school year and at the 2017 state meet Warren won the 3A pole vault final by clearing 15’3”. At the Texas Relays in March he vaulted a personal record 16’2”, the best jump of any 3A boy this season and tied for fifth-best among all Texas high schoolers.

Miller’s top competition could come from Wall senior Garrett Stephens, who finished 2nd at last year’s state meet and cleared a career-best 15’7” a month ago at his district meet, but finished 3rd at the 3A Region I meet and qualified for state via the wild card slot. Stephens also finished 5th in the 3A pole vault final at the 2016 state meet.

Sean Prendeville (Round Rock Cedar Ridge) - 6A boys 800 meter run

He’ll be competing in his second state meet after finishing 6th at state last year. That was a historically fast race in which the top four finishers all ran under 1:51 and Sam Worley (now at Texas) came very close to breaking the 800 meter state record. No such elite runners are among this year’s 6A 800 meter finalists. Prendeville has the top seed time (1:53.68), and the only runner in this race who has beaten his best time this season is Christian Gilmore (Humble Atascocita), a Houston track signee who finished 8th in the 800 meters at state last year.

Olivia Buntin (New Braunfels Canyon) - 6A girls pole vault

She has finished 5th and 6th in the pole vault at the past two state meets. She has the top seed mark in the 6A girls group (12’9”), and at the Texas Relays she vaulted a personal best 13’3”. That height has been topped by only one 6A girl this season: Mackenzie Hayward (Flower Mound Marcus), who won the pole vault at state two years ago and finished 3rd in 2017. Hayward cleared 14 feet at the Texas Relays in March and has jumped 13’4” or more at three other meets.

Kynnedy Flannel (Alvin) - 6A girls 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash

She is one of the state’s elite sprinters, and is the defending 6A girls champion in 100 meters, 200 meters, and long jump. She has dominated in all three events again this season, though she will only compete in the sprints at the state meet. She won the long jump at her area meet but apparently chose not to compete in it at the 6A Region III meet. She has the top seed times in both the 100 and 200, and her season-best times are also the best in Texas this year. Her top competitor will probably be junior Kaelei Collins (Houston Cypress Ranch), who has the second-fastest times among Class 6A girls this spring, and who finished 3rd at state in the 100 meters last year while a sophomore at Katy Tompkins.

Valery Tobias (Edinburg IDEA Quest) - 3A girls 400 meter dash, 800 meter run, and high jump

Tobias attends a south Texas charter school and has qualified for the state meet all four years of high school. As a freshman in 2015 she finished 2nd in the 800 meter final, but won the event in each of the next two years, running a personal best of 2:13.08 at last year’s state meet and coming 0.02 second shy of the 3A state meet record. She has yet to break 2:20 this season and her seed time is only the seventh-best of the 3A state finalists, but she’s got more state meet experience (and medals) than anyone in the race.

She also has the seventh-best seed time in the 400 meters (58.31), an event in which she previously reached the state meet as a freshman, finishing 6th. She’ll also be competing in the high jump at the state meet for a second straight year after finishing 5th in 2017 with a jump of 5’2”. This year’s 3A girls high jump final will be wide open with no clear favorite; all nine finalists have cleared 5’4” (Tobias’s personal best) at some point this season, and two have gone as high as 5’6”.

Class 6A events and athletes to watch

Boys 3,200 meter run

Alex Maier (Flower Mound), who finished 2nd in a very fast 6A final at state last year (8:58.85) as a sophomore, finished 4th in this event at regionals and won’t make a return to state in this event this week, but his teammate, sophomore Jarrett Kirk, will be competing and he has the top seed time (9:09.64) in the 6A final. This is an event where the meet record (8:50.43) seems very safe, but all nine finalists have run times of 9:17 or faster this year (only the top four finishers at state in 2017 ran under that time), so with a fast group pace over the first 6 or 7 laps someone might well approach the nine-minute barrier.

Boys 4x100 meter relay

It’s going to be fast, but what else should you expect? Last year’s winner, Converse Judson, clocked a 40.14, and the top six finishers all ran sub-41 second times. Seven of the nine finalists this year have run under 41 seconds at some point in the season. Katy Seven Lakes has the top seed time at 40.51.

Girls 800 meter run

Keller junior Isabel Van Camp is the top returning finisher from 2017 (she finished 3rd in a time of 2:10.25) and she has the top seed time in the 6A girls group (2:11.00). Van Camp has finished 9th, 11th, and 15th at the last three 6A cross country state championships.

Last year’s 4th (Jennelle Jaegar-Darakjy - El Paso Coronado) and 5th place finishers (Wonders Oguejifor - Houston Cypress Springs) also return, and they have the second and fourth-best seed times. Sandwiched between their seed times is freshman Keaton Morrison (Hebron), who has run a 2:11.57.

KeSean Carter (The Woodlands)

Boys 100 meter dash, 4x100 meter relay (anchor leg), and 4x200 meter relay (anchor leg)

The Texas Tech football and track signee has as strong a claim as anyone to the title of “fastest high schooler in Texas”. At last year’s state meet he ran a wind-legal 10.32 to win the 6A 100 meter final, and he anchored The Woodlands’s 4x200 meter relay team to a winning time of 1:23.81, which broke the 6A state meet record and would have set a new national record had Port Arthur Memorial not run a 1:23.52 in the 5A final the day before.

Carter ran a (very wind-aided) 10.28 in the 100 meters at the 6A Region II meet and he has the top seed time. He will also anchor his school’s 4x100 and 4x200 meter relay teams, which have the fourth and third-fastest seed times, respectively.

Boys 4x200 meter relay

A new national record was set at last year’s meet when Port Arthur Memorial ran a 1:23.52. A new 6A state meet record was set as well when The Woodlands ran a 1:23.81. The top three finishers in last year’s 6A final all ran under 1:25. Of this year’s state finalists, six have run sub-1:25 times, led by Katy Seven Lakes, which has the top seed time of 1:24.18.

Girls 400 meter dash

Oklahoma track signee Kennedy Blackmon (Plano) has the top seed time (53.68) in a fast 6A girls heat, one in which three other runners broke 54 seconds in their regional meet finals. Included in that group is last year’s 2nd place finisher Esther Ekeanyanwu (Allen), a UCLA track signee.

Boys 400 meter dash

Thirteen high schoolers in the nation have run the 400 meters in under 47 seconds this year, three of them did so at the 6A Region III meet alone. Houston Strake Jesuit junior Matthew Boling has the fastest time in the state with a 46.15. Moyo Oyebamiji (Katy Cinco Ranch) and Lavone Brown (Alief Taylor) have both run under 46.9. Last year’s state final had two runners break 46 seconds, while the 3rd place runner crossed the finish line in 47.15. More than one runner finishing under 46 seems unlikely, but this could still be a remarkably fast group.

Matthew Boling (Houston Strake Jesuit)

Boys 400 meter dash, long jump, and 4x400 meter relay (anchor leg)

Boling could come home this weekend as one of the biggest stars of the state meet. He has the top seed time in the 400 meters (46.15), the top seed mark in the long jump (23’7”) and he will anchor a 4x400 meter relay squad that boasts the second-best seed time (3:11.91) and is one of only three teams in the country to run under 3:12 this season.

Come next winter, Boling should be able to name his college. As a sophomore in 2017 he finished 4th at state in the 400 meters and 3rd in the long jump, and he even high jumped 6’7” at a meet early that year. He has long jumped over 24 feet in at least two meets this season.

Tre’Bien Gilbert (Converse Judson)

Boys 110 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles

The Arkansas signee has the nation’s second-fastest time in the 300 meter hurdles this season (36.39). His seed time in the 110 meter hurdles is much more middle-of-the-pack (14.29), but he ran previously that race in a wind-aided 13.91 at the Texas Relays.

Girls 1,600 meter run

In the 6A final at the 2017 state meet, eight runners broke five minutes, and the 9th place finisher came in at 5:04.88. All nine of this year’s finalists have seed times of 5:04 or faster, and five ran under five minutes at their regional meet. Defending champion Quinn Owen (Flower Mound Marcus), an Arkansas signee, has the top seed time at 4:52.76, about five seconds short of her winning time at state last year.

Girls 4x400 meter relay

DeSoto set a new state record in this event at last year’s state meet, running a 3:37.85. Three of the four girls who ran on that relay return for DeSoto’s 2018 squad, and this year’s mile relay team has a seed time of 3:41.37, second-best just behind Houston Cypress Springs and its 3:41.27. Two other relay teams among the finalists have run under 3:44 this season.

Boys 4x400 meter relay

The 6A boys mile relay is always the final event of the state meet, and this year’s race should be a very good one. Last year’s champion, Richmond George Ranch, clocked a 3:11.19, the fastest winning time in several years. There have been recent state meets where the 6A winner in this event ran times in the 3:13-3:14 range. This likely won’t be one of those years, as three state finalists (Alief Taylor, DeSoto, and Houston Strake Jesuit) have run under 3:12 at some point this season, and two others have run under 3:14.

Girls discus throw

The winning throw of last year’s 6A girls discus final traveled 131’8”. This year’s winner will likely leave that mark far behind, as eight of the nine finalists have seed marks of 133 feet or more, led by Virginia track signee Sadey Rodriguez (Laredo United), who has thrown the disc 140 feet or more in at least six meets this season and has the top throw in the state (159’4”). Rodriguez finished 3rd and 7th in this event at the past two state meets. Pearland Dawson freshman Crystal Herpin is the only other 6A finalist who has broken 150 feet this season. Nya Harmon (The Woodlands), who finished 2nd at state as a freshman in 2017, has the second-best seed mark (147’1”) and the third best throw by a 6A girl this season.

Boys discus throw

Last year’s 6A boys final was a great contest between future Texas A&M thrower Gabriel Oladipo and future Texas thrower Adrian Piperi, with both making at least three throws over 190 feet and Oladipo ultimately winning with a throw of 204’5” and Piperi taking 2nd with a top toss of 199’9”. Only two others went over 180 feet. We may not see anyone approach 200 feet this year but there should be stiff competition in this event, as six finalists have throws 180 feet or more this season. Adrian Piperi’s younger brother Patrick Piperi, a junior from The Woodlands, has the top seed mark at 183’5”. He will also compete in the 6A shot put final, an event in which he finished 7th last year.

Sanaa Barnes (Trophy Club Byron Nelson)

Girls high jump

She owns one medal of each color from past state meet appearances and will very likely add another in her last state meet. She is the defending 6A girls high jump champion, and earlier in her career she finished 3rd at state as a sophomore and 2nd as a freshman. She cleared the bar at a career-best 5’11” at regionals, the second-best jump in the state this year and tied for the third-best in the nation. She has signed with Villanova for both volleyball and track.

Boys high jump

Last year’s winner Mason Corbin (Katy Tompkins), a Texas A&M track signee, returns to defend his title. He jumped 6’11” to win state last year and has cleared the bar at 6’10” this season. Last year’s 3rd place finisher Jack Scarborough (San Antonio Johnson), a Texas Tech track signee, has also jumped 6’10” this year. Scarborough jumped 6’8” in his 3rd place effort a year ago, and cleared the same height at state in 2016 to finish 4th. He has a personal best of 6’11”, which he jumped at his district meet a year ago.

Mackenzie Hayward (Flower Mound Marcus)

Girls pole vault

None of the girls in the 6A pole vault final has a seed mark better than 12’9”, but Hayward has cleared 13 feet at four different meets and had a personal-best vault of 14’ at the Texas Relays. Hayward, a junior, won this event as a freshman in 2016 with a vault of 12’9”, then finished 2nd at the 2017 meet despite improving to 13’3”. The 6A state meet record is 13’9”, and the overall girls state record is 14’7.25”.

Branson Ellis (Tyler Lee)

Boys pole vault

He is the defending 6A champion in the pole vault, and the 17’4” he vaulted at the 6A Region II meet is a foot better than the next-best seed mark, and is the fifth-best height anyone in the nation has cleared this season. Ellis, who signed with Stephen F. Austin for track last month, also finished 2nd at the state meet as a sophomore in 2016. If he is assured of a gold medal, he may make an attempt at matching or beating the 6A state meet record, which is 17’6”.

Boys shot put

Five Texans have put the shot over 60 feet this season, and all five will compete in the 6A boys final. UCLA football signee Otito Ogbonnia (Katy Taylor) has the state’s top heave and is tied for the nation’s fifth-best this year (65’5”). He finished 4th at state a year ago. Also returning from last year’s finalists is 7th place finisher Patrick Piperi (The Woodlands), who put the shot 55’10.25” at state in 2017 but has gone far beyond that in every meet this season, setting a new personal best of 62’6” at a meet in March and reaching the 62-foot mark at two other meets. Lake Travis senior Jared Tracy, an Arizona State signee, has the second-best seed mark at 63’5.5”. He has competed and performed very well this spring despite suffering two herniated disks in February and being told by doctors at the time that he wouldn’t be able to compete for six months. He is scheduled to compete in the 6A shot put and discus finals this week, then he’ll have plenty of time to rest and recover before he takes to the throwing circle again.

Tosin Alao (Allen)

Girls triple jump

Alao finished 6th at state in the triple jump as a freshman in 2016. She jumped over 40 feet at multiple meets in 2017, but only managed a jump of 38’7.5” at regionals to finish 3rd and miss on a return trip to state. She is back in the 6A girls final this year and her seed mark (41’9.5”) tops the field by over a foot and a half. She jumped a personal best 42’3.25” at her area meet, which is the second-best jump in the state and sixth-best in the nation this season. Four of the other 6A girls finalists have leapt over 40 feet, including returning 3rd place finisher Koi Johnson (Dickinson) and 6th place jumper Symone Washington (Round Rock Stony Point), so winning that first gold medal won’t be an easy hop, skip, and a jump in the park for Alao. Or will it?

Chris Welch (Dickinson)

Boys triple jump and long jump

This is the first state meet appearance for Welch, a senior who has signed with Houston Baptist for track. He finished 3rd in the triple jump at the 6A Region III meet in both his sophomore and junior years and didn’t advance to state. This year he’ll arrive in Austin as the owner of the nation’s top jump of the season, a wind-aided 51’4.5” triple jump from last month’s regional meet. He had previously jumped 48 feet at two other meets, so he’s very good even without a very strong tailwind. Welch finished 3rd in the long jump at the 6A Region III meet but his 23’3.25” was good enough to earn the 6A wild card slot at the state meet. He has not been as strong in that event, and his seed mark is only fifth-best in the long jump final.

Class 5A events and athletes to watch

London Culbreath (McKinney North)

girls 1,600 meter run, 3,200 meter run, and 4x400 meter relay (alternate)

Culbreath has been one of the state’s top female distance runners for two years and is still only a sophomore. She’s a two-time 5A cross country state champion, and she left her mark on the state’s track and field record book as a freshman in 2017, winning both the 5A girls 1,600 meter and 3,200 meter championships and setting a new state meet record (for all classifications) in the latter event. Her 10:13.68 time in the 3,200 final ranked her at #3 all-time among Texas high school girls.

She has not had a sophomore slump this season; her 3,200 time at the 5A Region II meet (10:25.87) was only three seconds behind her regional performance from a year ago, and she has the fastest time in the state this year and the best 5A girls seed time by nearly 24 seconds. In the 1,600 meter run, her 4:53.16 regional time is easily the top seed time and six seconds better than the next-fastest time by a 5A girl this year. That time also outpaces the 4:55.06 she ran at state a year ago, and if she gets off to a similar pace in that final this week she could be within striking distance of the 5A state meet record (4:48.16). Culbreath is also listed as an alternate runner on McKinney North’s 4x400 meter relay squad, but that event takes place right after the 1,600 meter run, and North comfortably has the top seed time (3:42.59) even without Culbreath running on that relay at regionals. The 5A state meet record in that event is 3:40.41.

Graydon Morris (Aledo)
Michael Abeyta (El Paso Hanks)

800 meters (Abeyta), 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters (both)

These two sophomores are arguably the top two distance runners in Class 5A, and since their schools will be in the same classification and region for the next two years they figure to have at least a few more opportunities to push each other head-to-head, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they broke a record or two before all is said and done.

Morris and Abeyta both competed at the 2016 5A cross country state championship as freshmen, with Morris finishing 3rd and Abeyta 6th. They both qualified for the 2017 state track meet, though not in the same event; Abeyta won the 5A 1,600 meters (5:17.29), while Morris finished 2nd in the 3,200 meters (9:21.02).

They were the top two finishers at last fall’s 5A cross country state championship, with Morris finishing less than a second and a half ahead of Abeyta. They met again at the 5A Region I meet last month, with Abeyta getting the better of Morris in the 3,200 meters, and Morris returning the favor in the 1,600 by edging out his rival by 0.07 seconds. Morris has the top 3,200 meter time for a 5A boy this year, and the second-best by anyone in the state (9:08.84), while Abeyta’s top time is five seconds slower. In the 1,600, it’s Abeyta who has the top 5A time this year (4:16.40), with Morris’s best time three seconds behind that. Abeyta will also be running the 800 meters, and he has the second-fastest time by a 5A runner this season (1:53.35) and the second-fastest time in the nation this year by a sophomore.

Boys 4x100 meter relay

Port Arthur Memorial won this event last year and very nearly set a new national record in the process; their time of 39.80 set a new 5A state meet record and fell just short of the state and national record of 39.76, set in 1998 by Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt. Memorial has the top time in the state this year (40.40) and the second-best national time. They’ll be pushed by relay teams from Fort Bend Marshall, Lancaster, Mansfield Legacy, Angleton, and Humble, all of which have run times of 41.15 or faster. Also in the 5A final is Fort Worth Trimble Tech, which brings back the same foursome that ran a 40.84 and finished 6th at last year’s state meet. There probably won’t be any records broken but this should be a very fast race, as always.

Girls 800 meters

In the 5A girls final of this event a year ago, the top four finishers were a freshman and three sophomores, and only two of the nine finalists were seniors. Remarkably, only one of those finalists returns for this year’s 800 final: Georgetown junior Maryn DeMaio, who ran a 2:16.23 and finished third last year. As with last year, only two of the girls in the 5A 800 final are seniors. Three are freshmen, including Bailey Goggans (Marble Falls), who has the fastest time in the state this season (2:10.01). The 5A state meet record is 2:07.07.

Girls 100 meter dash

Seniors Kelly Rowe (Mansfield Lake Ridge) and Arianna West (Humble), who finished 2nd and 3rd in this event last year, both return, and they have the second and seventh-fastest seed times, respectively. Freshman Kenondra Davis (Fort Worth Trimble Tech) ran a wind-aided 11.55 at the 5A Region I meet and has the top seed time. Rowe ran an 11.47 last month at the District 10-5A meet. The winning time at last year’s state meet was 11.64, and three of this year’s finalists have beaten that time this season.

Boys 110 hurdles

Texas Tech track signee Robert Teer (Arlington Seguin) has the fastest time in the nation this year, a 13.58 he ran at his area meet. His seed time (13.68) is slightly slower but it too is faster than what anyone else has run in 2017. This will be Teer’s first state meet appearance after previously failing to advance beyond regionals. His top challenger will be Fort Bend Marshall junior Dominick Houston-Shepard, who finished 4th at state in 2017, and whose (wind-aided) 13.86 seed time is also a top ten national time this year.

Dominick Houston-Shepard (Fort Bend Marshall)

Boys 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, and 4x400 meter relay (2nd leg)

A year ago he finished 4th in the 5A boys 110 hurdles final. This year he has run ahead of his best times in both of his specialties, and he’s got a great chance to win his first three state medals this week. He has the second-fastest seed time in the 110 hurdles (13.86), the top seed time in the 300 meter hurdles (37.09) and the fifth-fastest time in the nation this season (36.76), and he will run the 2nd leg for Marshall’s 4x400 meter relay team, which has the top seed time in its group (3:15.27).

Boys 100 meter dash

Seniors Keishawn Everly (Fort Worth Trimble Tech) and Jais Smith (Mansfield Legacy) finished 2nd and 5th in this event at the 2017 state meet, and going into this year’s meet they have the top two seed times: 10.43 and 10.50. Everly ran a wind-legal 10.32 in his 2nd place finish at state last year, and this season he has run as fast as a wind-aided 10.37 at the Texas Relays. In all, four of this year’s 5A finalists have run times under 10.50 this season.

Keishawn Everly (Fort Worth Trimble Tech)

Boys 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and 4x100 meter relay (2nd leg)

He has finished 2nd and 3rd in the 100 meter dash at the past two 5A state meets, and has run the 2nd leg of Trimble Tech 4x100 relay teams that finished 6th at state in consecutive years. Now a senior, he goes into his last state meet with the top seed time in the 5A 100 meters (10.43), the third-best seed time in the 200 meters (21.20), and he will once again run the 2nd leg for Trimble Tech’s 4x100 meter relay, which has the slowest seed time (41.57). Trimble Tech’s 6th place relay teams ran times of 40.80 and 41.33 at the past two state meets.

Mansfield Lake Ridge girls 4x200 meter relay team

Lake Ridge’s track team has a great shot at winning the 5A girls team title, and this is one of several events they’ll be favored to win. Carrying the baton for Lake Ridge is a virtual college track team. Junior Jasmine Moore, who is the two-time defending state champion in both long jump and triple jump and arguably the top girls jumper in the nation, runs the leadoff leg. She hands off to senior Nyana Wright, who has run 100 meter dash times in the low 12s this spring. Wright gives the baton to 3rd leg Ariel Ford, who has signed to run track with Xavier University of Louisiana. And anchoring the squad is Kelly Rowe, one of the state’s top female sprinters and an Ole Miss signee.

That quartet has the top seed time and second-fastest time in the nation this year for the 4x200 relay, 1:35.85. They’ve got a great shot at breaking the 5A state meet record of 1:36.15, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they made a run at the all-time state record of 1:34.51, set by Alief Elsik at the 2003 state meet. But DeSoso’s girls have run a 1:35.43 this year, and they’ll surely make a strong run themselves at the state record in the 6A final on Saturday.

Boys 4x200 meter relay

Three of this year’s 5A state finalists have run times under 1:25 this season, with Mansfield Legacy’s 1:24.40 being the top seed time. A year ago, Port Arthur Memorial’s relay team ran a 1:24.24 in the prelims of the 5A Region III meet, then went on to run a blazing 1:23.52 at the state meet to smash the previous national high school record. Does one of this year’s state finalists have the ability to run under 1:24 or challenge that record?

For reference: the 4x200 relay is not an Olympic track and field event and is not part of the schedule for college track championships, and it isn’t regularly run in a lot of other states at the high school level. Some college meets early in the outdoor season will include the 4x200, though, and only five colleges have run faster times in that event this season than Port Arthur Memorial’s state record time from last year, according to Athletic.net.

Bailey Lear (Frisco Heritage)

girls 200 meter dash, 400 meter dash, and 4x400 meter relay (alternate)

The USC-bound sprinter has been one of the state’s top 400 meter runners for four years and she’ll be making her third and final trip to the state meet this week. Some of her career successes are even more remarkable considering that she skipped a grade earlier in her academic career and she’s a senior who is younger than a lot of current high school juniors. As a freshman at McKinney in 2015 she competed at the 5A state meet mere weeks after turning 14 and finished 3rd in the 400 meters with a time of 56.09. She ran the 400 meters at state again the following year, clocking a 53.70 and finishing 2nd. She transferred to Frisco Heritage afterwards and was not eligible for varsity competition during the 2017 track season, so she was relegated to running on Heritage’s JV track squad and predictably dominated, winning every race and running a career best 53.02 in the 400 at a postseason meet. The 54.45 she ran in the JV 400 meter final at her district meet last year (a time she ran despite not being credibly pushed by any of her competitors, as she beat the 2nd place runner by 8.71 seconds) was 0.14 seconds faster than the winning time in the 5A girls 400 final at the state meet.

At a meet this past February she set a new state indoor record in the 400 with a time of 53.20. This spring she has run sub-54 second times in at least four races, and her 53.35 regional time is the best in the state this year and the sixth-best nationally. Along with the 400, Lear will also run in the 200 meter final for the first time, and her 23.86 seed time is the second-best in the 5A girls final. That time was a personal best for her and is the sixth-best in the state this season. She is listed as an alternate runner for Heritage’s 4x400 meter relay, which has the fourth-best seed time, 3:48.01. That time was run without Lear, who ran on Heritage’s 4x100 meter relay team instead at regionals, but that squad finished 4th and didn’t advance to state. I’ll go out on a limb and guess Lear ends up running the 4x400 relay on Friday night. She ran the 2nd leg of Heritage’s 4x400 team that competed at the Texas Relays, and that foursome ran a 3:44.02, a time that has been topped by only one 5A team this season: McKinney North, which ran a 3:42.59 at regionals. If Lear runs for Heritage and McKinney North’s team is also at the top of its game, the 5A state meet record (3:40.41) might be in danger.

Boys 400 meter dash

No records are likely to be set in this race, but the seed times for the nine finalists suggest it could have one of the tighter finishes of any race this week. The difference between the fastest seed time (47.61 by Xavier Johnson of Temple) and slowest (48.89 by Joshua White of El Paso Burges) is 1.27 seconds.

Brooke Shepherd (Frisco Heritage)

300 meter hurdles and 4x400 meter relay (anchor leg)

Some, perhaps many of the freshman and sophomore girls competing at the state meet will be performing at their running peak and will not run as fast in their later years of high school as they can now. Female runners peaking in their early years of high school is a fairly common phenomenon. Frisco Heritage senior Brooke Shepherd’s track career has been the exact opposite of that. As a freshman she didn’t break 67 seconds in any of her 400 meter races and her top 300 meter hurdles time was 52.15, according to her Athletic.net profile. She steadily improved over the next two years, shaving nearly five seconds off her personal best in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore, then improving by another second as a junior, but she was disqualified in the prelims of the 300 hurdles at her district meet, and stumbled to an 8th place finish in the 110 hurdles at her area meet.

Now, one year later, she’s a senior and has become one of the top 300 meter hurdlers in the state and has regularly run the anchor leg for one of the best girls 4x400 relay teams in Class 5A. I doubt anyone predicted that the girl who was running 300 hurdles times in the 52-53 second range as a freshman would have the top seed time in that event (43.08) at the state meet in her senior year. Her 43.01 area meet time is the seventh-best time in the state this year, and the second-best recorded by a 5A girl.

Girls 200 meter dash

This race seems likely to be won by an experienced senior or a freshman. Mississippi track signee Kelly Rowe (Mansfield Lake Ridge) and USC track signee Bailey Lear (Frisco Heritage) have the top two seed times (23.72 and 23.86), followed by freshman Kenondra Davis (Fort Worth Trimble Tech, 23.96). Texas A&M track signee Jania Martin (McKinney North), who finished 2nd in the 200 meters at state last year, has the fourth-best seed time (24.21).

Boys 200 meter dash

Port Arthur Memorial senior Kary Vincent won this event last year in a blistering 20.71, beating the rest of the field by more than a half-second (2nd place time: 21.29). This race should be a faster heat than 2017’s, as three finalists have run times of 20.75 or faster this season, and six of them have run wind-legal times of 21.25 or faster.

Girls 1,600 meter run

Defending champion London Culbreath (McKinney North) ran a 4:53.16 at the 5A Region II meet, nearly two seconds better than her winning time at the 2017 state meet. Most likely to push her are Texas A&M track signee Carrie Fish (Frisco Liberty), last year’s 4th place finisher at state (and 3rd place runner in the 3,200 meters) and the only other 5A girl to break five minutes this year (4:59.10 seed time), and Frisco Reedy freshman Colleen Stegmann, who has improved her times at each of her last few meets and ran 5:02.26 at regionals. Those three have some familiarity with each other, as they finished 1-2-3 in the 1,600 at regionals, and Culbreath and Fish finished 1st and 2nd at the 5A cross country state championship last fall (Stegmann finished 9th). Regardless of the outcome of this race, it should make for a great rivalry having Culbreath and Stegmann compete head-to-head at area, regional, and state meets over the next two years.

Hailey Pollard (Alvin Shadow Creek)

Girls discus and shot put

She’s a Houston track signee and will be aiming for her third straight state meet gold medal. As a sophomore in 2016, she won the 6A discus title while a student at Houston Lamar. She transferred to newly-opened Shadow Creek before her junior year and won the 5A discus at last year’s state meet. She has not lost a meet this year and threw a personal best 155’11” at the Texas Relays. She has the top seed mark among the 5A girls discus finalists by over seven feet. The 5A girls state meet record is 163’6”. She will also compete in the shot put final, an event in which she finished 4th last year. Her seed mark in that event (40’9”) is only the sixth-best.

Jasmine Moore (Mansfield Lake RIdge)

girls long jump, triple jump, and 4x200 meter relay (leadoff leg)

Few competitors will be a heavier favorite to win multiple gold medals than Moore, a junior who is the two-time defending champion in both the long jump and triple jump and has not lost a high school competition in either of those events since finishing 2nd in both at the 2016 Texas Relays. Her personal best in the long jump is 21’0.25”, a distance that would beat the 5A state meet record (20’10.25”) if she were to replicate it this week, and the girls all-time state record (21’3.25”) is also within her reach.

Moore is also poised to make a run at the state’s triple jump record. At the Texas Relays in March, Moore uncorked a wind-legal triple jump of 44’1”, a distance only five female high school jumpers have ever topped. The Texas state record is 44’2.25”, set in 2001 by Luling superstar and future Longhorn jumper Ychlindria Spears, who also holds the state long jump record. Moore set a new 5A state meet record in last year’s triple jump final by flying 43’4.75” on her final jump. It would be a massive upset if she were to not win both of her jumping events, the biggest drama will involve how close she gets to their state records. Moore will also run the first leg of Lake Ridge’s 4x100 meter relay team, which has the top seed time (46.20) and the second fastest time by a Class 5A team this season.

Girls pole vault

Staphen F. Austin track signee Nastassja Campbell (New Caney) has vaulted 14 feet. Junior Riley Floerke has cleared the bar at 13’9”. The 5A state meet record is 13’8”. This is Campbell’s fourth straight year to compete in the 5A pole vault final; she previously finished 5th, 3rd, and 3rd. Floerke previously finished 4th (2017) and 2nd (2016) at state in this event. She also won the triple jump at the 5A Region IV meet but apparently chose not to compete in that event at state (the 5A girls triple jump is scheduled to start one hour after the pole vault, which might explain her withdrawing from the TJ).

Faith Ette (Mansfield Lake Ridge)

girls discus and shot put

The Oklahoma track signee is the defending 5A champion in the shot put, and also finished 2nd in the event in 2016. The discus is decidedly her second-best event, and she has not previously qualified for the state meet in it. But she has improved her personal best this season by 27 feet, and she’ll go into the state meet with the fourth-best seed mark in the discus (139’9”).

Class 4A events and athletes to watch

Emily Garcia (Alvarado)

girls 3,200 meter run

As a freshman a year ago, Garcia won the 3,200 meter gold medal and finished 2nd in the 1,600 meters. She’ll be aiming to defend her 3,200 meter title, but she goes into the state meet with the slowest seed time by over seven seconds; her regional time of 11:52.16 was almost a minute slower than the time she ran to win state last year (10:55.22). She has the capability to win gold in that event once again, but that will depend on whether she performs like she did at regionals, or more like the version that ran an 11:16.45 at the Texas Distance Festival in March. The latter time is the fastest run by a 4A girl this year by over six seconds. La Feria sophomore Dariana Vasquez, who finished 8th in this event at last year’s state meet, has the top seed time at 11:29.29.

boys 3,200 meter run

Youth could be served in this long distance final. The top three finishers at the 2017 state meet were all seniors; the top two seed times going into this year’s meet are owned by freshmen Edwin Gomez (San Elizario) and Judson Greer (Melissa), who ran a 9:43.38 and 9:47.00 at their respective regional meets. The only two returning state finalists from last year’s meet are junior Eli Peveto (Little Cypress-Mauriceville) and sophomore Christian Rivera (Kaufman), who finished 4th and 3rd, respectively, and who own the top two times this season among 4A boys (9:35.56 and 9:37.31).

Sha’Carri Richardson (Dallas Carter)

girls 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4x100 meter relay (2nd leg), and 4x200 meter relay (alternate)

The LSU signee already owns five state meet gold medals and one silver medal, and she’ll have a chance to add three more to her collection this weekend. The 11.53 time she ran in the 100 meter prelims at the 4A Region II meet was the fastest wind-legal time by any girl in the state this year. Her time in the 200 meter final at regionals (24.15) is the top seed time among the 4A girls finalists and ties her with Kennedale junior Alexis Brown for the fastest time by a 4A girl this year. Richardson and Brown will also go head-to-head in the 4x100 meter relay, as they are both slated to run the 2nd leg for their teams and have been assigned to neighboring lanes.

Carter won the 4x100 relay at the last two state meets and set a new 4A state meet record both times. Last year, with Richardson running 2nd leg, Carter crossed the finish line in 45.96, while Kennedale finished 2nd in 47.58. Aside from running a leg for the last two state champion 4x100 relay teams, Richardson is the two-time defending 4A girls 100 meter champion and the 4A state meet record holder in that event (11.28, set at the 2017 meet). She is also the defending 4A girls 200 meter champion (her 23.48 time last year was 0.07 shy of the 4A state meet record), and she finished 2nd in the 200 meter final as a sophomore in 2016. She is listed as an alternate runner for Carter’s 4x200 meter relay, but I believe rules prevent an athlete from participating in more than three running events, so she would likely only run on that relay if she pulled out of another of her scheduled events, perhaps due to injury or so help her team get more points toward the team title.

Anna Casey (Llano)

girls 800 meter run and 1,600 meter run

Casey is the only freshman among the 4A girls finalists in the 800 meters and one of two in the 1,600 meters. Her 2:17.18 is the third-best seed time in the 800 final, and she has the top 1,600 seed time (5:15.97), though two of her competitors in the latter event have run faster times this year.

Ally Henson (Houston Yates)

girls 100 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles

Henson, a junior, has the top seed time among the 4A girls finalists in both the 100 hurdles (14.20) and the 300 hurdles (44.76). She ran a personal-best 13.90 in the prelims of the former event at the Texas Relays, a time tied for third-best in the state this year, and one that would break the 4A state meet record (14.04, set by Groesbeck’s Chimika Carter in 1996) should she duplicate it this week. She ran a 14.92 and finished 5th in that event at last year’s state meet, and the hurdlers who finished 2nd and 4th are also returning to state this week. Her regional time in the 300 hurdles was a full two seconds better than her previous personal best and she hasn’t been as elite at that distance, but she has the top 4A girls time this year.

Ian Carter (Burnet)

boys 110 meter hurdles

The Texas State track signee has become a familiar sight in the 4A boys 110 hurdles finals, as this is his fourth straight year to qualify for the state meet in that event. He finished 5th in both his freshman and sophomore years, then ran a 14.20 to finish 2nd at state in 2017. He’s back for one final shot at a gold medal and has the top seed time (14.40). Running on the same track for the Texas Relays earlier this spring, Carter ran a wind-aided 14.22 to win the high school boys Division I final. At a February meet he ran a 13.81, which is currently the fifth-best time in the nation this year.

Alexis Brown (Kennedale)

girls 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4x100 meter relay, and long jump

Brown is the defending 4A girls long jump champion and also owns three silver and two bronze medals from previous state meet appearances. The 20’0.25” she flew in her final jump at state in 2017 to clinch the gold medal made her the only 4A (or 3A for years prior to 2015) girl to jump 20 feet in the past decade, according to Dyestat records. Her 18’11” jump at regionals last month was a season-best and the 2nd best jump by a 4A girl this year. She also has the top 100 meter seed time (11.64) and is tied with Sha’Carri Richardson for the best 200 meter time this season for her classification.

Kalon Barnes (Silsbee)

boys 100 meters and 200 meters

The Baylor football signee is the defending 4A boys champion in the 100 and 200 meters, and he’ll be among the fastest football players in the Big 12 as soon as he moves to Waco. As a junior in 2017, he broke the 15-year-old 4A state meet record in the 100 by winning in a wind-legal 10.22, and he later won the 200 in 21.48. He also anchored Silsbee’s 4x100 relay team to a 2nd place finish with a time of 41.41. This year he is tied for the third-best wind-legal 100m time in the state (10.43) and also ran a 10.23 at his district meet. His 21.28 regional time in the 200 meters was a personal best, and is the top seed time among the 4A finalists. He very narrowly missed out on a chance at going for three gold medals at state when Silsbee’s 4x100 relay team ran a 42.55 at regionals but finished 3rd and one place behind Taylor, whose team ran an identical time.

Girls 4x200 meter relay

Dallas Carter and Atlanta have the top two seed times, courtesy of a blistering matchup at the 4A Region II meet where Carter came out ahead 1:40.04 to 1:40.19. Only one other relay team in the 4A girls final has run under 1:42 this year, but if Carter and Atlanta get clean baton exchanges and push each other again, they could make a run at the 4A state meet record of 1:39.00.

Boys 400 meters

Ashton Hicks (Carthage) and LaKyron Mays (Dallas Carter), the top two finishers in the 4A boys 400 meters at last year’s state meet return for one more head-to-head race in Austin before they become teammates on Oklahoma State’s track team. The two have raced each other at both the regional and state level for two seasons. At state in 2017, Hicks finished in 47.69 to edge LaKyron Mays by 0.03 seconds. Going into this year’s state meet, the two seniors have by far the top two seed times among the 4A finalists, with Mays’s 46.69 regional time being a top ten time in the nation this season and the second-best time by a Texan.

Mays will also run the 2nd leg of Carter’s 4x100 meter relay team, which has the top 4A time this season (41.36). In addition to finishing 2nd in the 400 at the 2017 state meet, he also ran the leadoff leg of Carter’s gold medal-winning 4x400 meter relay squad (3:15.31) and finished 3rd in the 800 meters. Hick’s regional time in the 400 (47.63) was slightly better than his state-winning time from a year ago, and he and Mays are the only 4A runners to have broken 48 seconds this season. In addition to winning gold in last year’s 400 meter final, Hicks also anchored Carthage’s state champion 4x400 meter relay team as a sophomore in 2016.

Girls discus throw

The 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishers from the 2017 state meet all return. Ebony Wolridge (Giddings) uncorked a 138’7” throw on her final attempt to win the gold after being in 5th place going into the final round of throws. Her seed mark of 132’6” is the third best among the finalists. Last year’s 3rd place finisher, Abigail Flores (Rio Grande City Grulla), has the fourth-best throw in the state this season (148’3”) and the best by a 4A girl. The 4A state meet record in the event is 155’5”.

Boys discus throw

The top seed mark (174’3”) is owned by junior Branson Bragg (Crandall), one of the state’s most sought-after offensive line recruits and a top UT target. Bragg has thrown as far as 190’4” this season, and he’ll look to atone for his performance at state last year, where he fouled on four of his six throws and finished last with a throw of 148’9”. Senior Ray Dixon (Llano) finished 4th at last year’s state meet (155’8”) and is the top returning finalist. Dixon was at one time a Houston Baptist football and track commit, but he eventually committed to Louisiana-Monroe for track, and his best throw ranks fourth among 4A boys this season (167’7”). The Andrews duo of junior Jacob Mechler (who finished 6th at state in 2017) and sophomore Paxton Hair have the second and third-best seed marks (174’ and 173’11”).

Ally Andress (Glen Rose)

girls high jump

A three-sport star who has signed with Texas A&M for track, Andress is the defending 4A girls high jump champion and also finished 2nd as a sophomore in 2016, clearing 5’6” in both years. The 5’8” she jumped at the 4A Region I meet was a personal best and is the top seed mark in the 4A girls field.

Cole Mclawchlin (Cleveland Tarkington)

boys high jump

Mclawchlin qualified for the 4A boys high jump final at the 2017 state meet as a freshman, but was only able to clear the bar at 6’2” and finished 5th. Now a sophomore, he has the fourth-best jump of any Texan this season and is tied for the best national high jump by a sophomore, courtesy of the 6’11” he cleared at the 4A Region III meet. He’ll be joined in the 4A boys final by the top three finishers from last year’s state meet, all of whom have cleared at least 6’6” this year.

Anna Cathryn Griffith (Taylor)

girls 300 meter hurdles and pole vault

A junior, Griffith is the two-time defending 4A girls pole vault champion and holder of the 4A state meet record in the event (13’2.5”), which she set at last year’s meet. She also finished 6th in the long jump a year ago, and will run in the 300 meter hurdles final this week, an event in which she has the second-best seed time (45.15).

Tyrek McNeese (Sealy)

boys 4x100 meter relay (3rd leg), 4x200 meter relay (3rd leg), long jump, and triple jump

McNeese finished 2nd in the triple jump at the 2017 state meet, with his best leap (48’5.75”) coming up two and a half inches short of the winning distance. He has the best seed mark among this year’s 4A finalists (47’9.5”), and his 49’9” jump to win the boys triple jump at the Texas Relays is the second-best in the state this year, and the fifth-best mark in the nation. McNeese also has the second-best seed mark in the long jump (23’3.25”) and will run the third leg on Sealy’s 4x100 and 4x200 relay squads, which have the fifth and eighth-best seed times, respectively.

Class 3A events and athletes to watch

Johanna Villarreal (Blanco)

girls 1,600 meter run, 3,200 meter run, and 4x400 meter relay (alternate)

She’s a junior who will be competing in her third state meet. As a sophomore in 2017 she won the 3A girls 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs, and finished 5th in the 800. She has the top time of any 3A girl this season at both 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Her regional time in the 3,200 (11:25.25) was almost identical to her regional time from a year ago, when she went on to run 11:08.59 at state. The 5:12.50 she ran in the 1,600 at the Texas Relays is her best time in that distance this year, and three seconds shy of her state-winning time of a year ago (5:09.03). The 3A state meet record in the 1,600 (set 12 years ago) is 5:04.02. Villarreal is also listed as an alternate runner for Blanco’s 4x400 relay team, though that event will start only about 20 minutes after she’s done running the 1,600.

Buster Roberts (Luling)

boys 3,200 meter run and 1,600 meter run

He’s a senior who’s used to running at state meets. He reached the 3A cross country state championship all four years of high school, finishing 2nd twice and in 3rd place once. At the 2016 state track meet he finished 2nd in both the 1,600 and 3,200. As a junior in 2017 he took home gold in the 3,200 but came in 4th in the 1,600. He has the top seed time in the 3A boys 3,200 final, and his season-best in the 1,600 (4:18.12, which he ran at the Texas Relays) is seven seconds better than the next-best time run by a 3A boy this year.

Adam Mendoza (Pilot Point)

boys 800 meter run

A junior, Mendoza is the defending 3A state champion in the 800 meters and will be competing at his third state meet. He ran a 1:55.13 to win gold in that event a year ago, and also finished 6th as a freshman in 2016. He also ran in the 1,600 state final last year, finishing 8th. His seed time (1:56.42) is the second-best time run by a 3A boy this season, behind Hebbronville senior Eric Rodriguez’s 1:55.59. Rodriguez appears to be peaking at the right time and may cap off his heretofore undistinguished high school career with a gold medal. Rodriguez will be running in his very first state meet, courtesy of winning the 800 meters at the 3A Region IV meet. He did not finish higher than 7th in any of his other four career individual races and two relays run at regionals, and he finished 131st and 134th in his two appearances at the cross country state championship.

Kelcie and Natalie Simmons (Leonard)

Kelcie (girls 100 meter dash and 4x400 meter relay), Natalie (girls 200 meter dash and triple jump), both (4x100 meter relay and long jump)

The Simmons twins - both seniors - own a combined 14 career gold medals from previous state meets, most of them from running legs on Leonard’s numerous state-winning relay squads. They have accepted track scholarships at Duke. Kelcie has the top seed time in the 100 meters (11.80), and the wind-aided 11.70 she ran at the Jesuit-Sheaner Relays in March is by far the best time run by a 3A girl this season, and the fourth-best wind-legal time run by any girl in Texas. Natalie has the top seed time in the 200 meters (24.41) by 0.76 seconds. Kelcie will run the 2nd leg and Natalie the anchor leg of Leonard’s 4x100 relay team, whose seed time (47.44) is 0.67 seconds better than any other 3A girls relay has run this season.

Natalie, who won the triple jump at last year’s state meet and finished 2nd in 2015, has jumped as far as 38-6.75 this season, nearly ten inches better than any other 3A girl. She finished 2nd in the long jump last year and 1st as a freshman in 2015. Natalie’s personal best in the long jump is the 19-3.25 she jumped at state a year ago. Kelcie finished 2nd in the long jump as a sophomore and 6th as a freshman, and her career best is 18-10.25. Goliad junior Amaya Brown, who finished 3rd and 4th in the long jump at the past two state meets, owns the best mark by a 3A girl this year: 18-11.

The twins both ran a leg on Leonard’s state-winning 4x400 relay team last year, a foursome that improved on its regional time by over seven seconds and set a new 3A state meet record (3:51.05) in the event, the previous record for which had stood since 1978. All four of the girls from that relay are listed as either runners or alternates for this year’s state final, with Kelcie slated to run the anchor leg and Natalie (who ran a sub-55 second anchor split for last year’s relay) designated as an alternate.

Jack Marshall (Brady)

boys 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash

I note him not because he’s the favorite to win either of his events, but because he’s only a sophomore and already an accomplished two-sport athlete. At the District 6-3A track meet in April, he finished 1st in the 100 and 200 meters and was 2nd in the triple jump. He has the fourth-best seed time in the 100 (10.95) and is tied for the top seed time in the 200 (22.03), though five of the other 3A finalists have beaten the latter time this season.

Track is decidedly Marshall’s second-best sport, however. As a freshman in 2017, he reached the championship match of the 3A boys state tennis tournament, but fell to Corpus Christi London senior Dillon Humpal, a four-time individual state champion. After running at this week’s state track meet, Marshall will be in College Station for next week’s 3A state tennis tournament, which he qualified for in impressive fashion by taking four matches without losing a set and dominating his first three opponents while losing only one game at the 3A Region I tournament three weeks ago.

Boys 400 meter dash

Defending champion Will Anderson (East Bernard) is the only returning state finalist from last year’s meet. This will be Anderson’s fourth time to compete in this event at state; he won the 400 meters with a time of 48.00 in 2017, finished 6th in 2016, and was 4th as a freshman in 2015. He also anchored East Bernard’s 1st place 4x400 meter relay squads in 2017 and 2016. He has the top seed time in this year’s 400 final (48.91), just ahead of fellow senior and four-time state meet participant Marquavous Evans (Mount Vernon). Evans has competed in seven individual events at past state meets, with his best finishes being a silver medal in the long jump in 2016 and a bronze in the triple jump in 2015. He has also previously run the 100 meters and 200 meters (twice) at state. This will be Evans’s first state final in the 400, and his only event for his final high school meet.

Girls 1,600 meter run

Four of the top six finishers from the 2017 state meet return, including defending gold and silver medalists Johanna Villarreal (Blanco) and Jenna Brazeal (Little River Academy). Goliad sophomore Ellie Albrecht, who placed sixth at state last year, has the top seed time at 5:15.46, but Villarreal has run as fast as 4:12.50 this season.

Boys discus

The winner of the last two 3A boys discus finals, Josh Brown (Schulenburg), has graduated and is now a member of the track and field team at Texas A&M. His younger brother Cason Brown, who finished 5th last year, has the best seed mark by over seven feet and threw a season-best 180’3” at the Texas Relays in March. Cason has signed with Angelo State for both football and track. The only other returning finalist is Bryce Francis, who finished 3rd last year. Francis previously attended Brady but transferred to Kemp before his senior year and played left tackle for a Yellowjackets football team that advanced all the way to the 3A Division I state semifinals.

Jake Lamberth (Poth)

boys high jump

Lamberth, a Nebraska track signee, has come a long way since only clearing the high jump bar at 5’8” at his freshman year district meet. He jumped a then career-best 6’9” to finish 2nd at last year’s state meet, and he has beaten that height a handful of times since then. This season he has cleared 7 feet twice, and his 7’1” jump at the Navarro Panther Relays in early March is the second-best of any Texan high schooler this year. He has the top seed mark in the 3A boys high jump final by six and a half inches.

Clayton Deaver (Tolar)

boys long jump and triple jump

An all-state wide receiver last fall, he has been one of the state’s top jumpers this spring. His 23’6.5” jump at his area meet puts him among the top ten jumpers in the state this season, and it’s the best jump by any 3A athlete, a quarter-inch ahead of Texas wide receiver commit Joshua Moore (Yoakum), whose 23’6.25” jump at regionals gave him the top seed mark going into the state meet.

Deaver is peaking late in his senior year and will be competing in his first state meet. Though not his best long jump of the year, the 23’1.75” jump he made at the 3A Region I meet was nearly two feet better than the best jump of his junior year. Likewise, his 47’7.25” leap in the triple jump at that regional meet was four feet better than the best jump of his junior year, and improved on his previous personal record (set two weeks earlier at his area meet) by over two feet. Deaver and Millsap sophomore Jace Davis both jumped 47’7.25” at the 3A Region I meet (for Davis it was three feet better than he’d jumped at his area meet) and are tied for the best seed mark in 3A triple jump final. No other 3A jumper has come within a foot of that distance this season, and only one has even surpassed 46 feet. The 3A boys triple jump was won at last year’s meet by current Longhorn defensive back Montrell Estell.

Jon Garrett Stephens and Carson Stephens (Wall)

boys pole vault and 4x200 meter relay (Jon Garrett) and boys shot put (Carson)

These senior twin brothers both have a good chance to bring a medal home the weekend. Jon Garrett is tied for the second-best seed mark in the pole vault, and his career-best 15’7” that he cleared at his district meet a month ago is the second-best height by a 3A athlete this season. He is also slated to run the anchor leg of Wall’s 4x200 meter relay team, which has the second-slowest seed time among the nine finalists. Carson, meanwhile, has the third-best seed mark in the 3A shot put, at 51’2.5”. Carson did not advance past district in previous seasons, and this will be his first state meet, while Jon Garrett finished 2nd and 5th in pole vault at the last two state meets.

Baylor Cupp (Brock)

boys shot put

The Texas A&M football commit, who is unarguably one of the state’s three best tight end recruits for the 2019 class, will compete in the shot put final. He competed in three other events at the 3A Region I meet: the 200 meter dash, 4x100 relay, and 4x200 relay, but finished 4th, 3rd, and 4th in those events, respectively, and only qualified for the state meet in the shot put, an event in which he has the fourth-best seed mark.

Class 2A events and athletes to watch

Girls 3,200 meter run

There are five sophomores and a freshman among the nine finalists. Lindsay senior Allison Hedrick has the top seed time (11:31.47), followed by Valley View sophomore Sydney Reynolds (11:36.31), who was last fall’s 2A cross country state champion.

Boys 200 meter dash

Bosqueville junior Marcell Estell, who finished 4th in this event at last year’s state meet, has the top seed time (22.23). Also returning is last year’s 2A silver medalist Tyler Dykes (Iola), who ran a 21.90 at the 2017 state meet but only ran a 22.71 at last month’s 2A Region IV meet.

Cale Kassen (Valley View)

boys 110 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles, and high jump

The junior has the top seed time in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, and the second-best seed mark in the high jump. At last year’s state meet he finished 5th in the 110 hurdles (15.30) and 3rd in the high jump (6’6”). He has run the 110 hurdles as fast as 14.01, a top ten time for all classifications this season, and his 300 hurdles seed time (38.25) is the fastest by a 2A boys runner this year by 0.6 seconds. He has cleared seven feet in the high jump, something only ten other boys nationwide have done this spring, but one of them is also in the 2A boys final: Farwell junior Roberto Trevizo who has the top seed mark with a 7’1.5”.

Boys high jump

This may be the event with the most elite talent of any finals in the smaller classifications. Juniors Robert Trevizo (Farwell) and Cale Kassen (Valley View) make up two-thirds of the Texas high school boys to have cleared seven feet in the high jump this season, and the third of that group is Jack Lamberth of Poth in Class 3A! Trevizo, who finished 2nd at last year’s state meet, cleared 7’1.5” at regionals last month, giving him the best jump in Texas this season and the fifth-best in the nation. Kassen also cleared 7 feet at his regional meet. The 2A state meet record in this event is 7’0.25”.

Tina Douglas (Lufkin Pineywoods Community Academy)

girls high jump

Not only does the state’s top boys high jumper this year reside in Class 2A, so does its top girls jumper! Douglas attends a small east Texas charter school of about 236 students, and she became the first Division I signee at her school when she signed to continue her track and field career at Texas State. Douglas is the two-time defending champion in the 2A girls high jump. She cleared 5’7” to win in both years, but at the 2A Region III meet last month she cleared the bar at 6 feet, a height only one other girl in the nation has matched this season. She’ll be the heavy favorite to win her third gold medal. Holland senior Zoe Spinn, who jumped 5’6” but finished 2nd to Douglas at each of the past two state meets, has the second-best seed mark at 5’6’, and no other 2A girl has gone higher than 5’4”. Spinn, who has signed with Abilene Christian, also finished 3rd at state as a freshman in 2015.

Allison Hedrick (Lindsay)

girls 1,600 meter run and 3,200 meter run

Only a freshman, she has the top seed time in both the girls 3,200 final (11:31.47) and the 1,600 final (5:22.80).

Luke Williams (Wellington)

boys pole vault and 4x400 meter relay (alternate)

The son of longtime Wellington head football coach Wade Williams, he played QB for his school’s football team and helped lead them to the state semifinals in both his junior and senior seasons. In track, he has developed into a stud hurdler and one of the best pole vaulters in the state, and has signed with Texas Tech for track. The 15’6” he vaulted at regionals is the best seed mark among the 2A boys by over a foot. He cleared 16’ earlier this season and his personal best is reportedly 17’1”.

This will be his third and final state meet; he finished 4th in the 2A boys pole vault as a sophomore and 3rd as a junior. Also at last year’s state meet, he finished 4th in the 110 meter hurdles, 5th in the 300 meter hurdles, and anchored Wellington’s 5th place 4x400 relay team. He’ll have only the pole vault final to worry about this time, though he had good performances this season in other events. He took 1st in the 200 meters at his district meet (22.42) but did not run in that event at the area meet. He ran a season-best 14.05 in the 110 hurdles at his area meet (the second-fastest time by a 2A boy this season) but didn’t make it out of prelims at his regional meet (I’m guessing he tripped on a hurdle). He apparently didn’t lose a 300m hurdles race all season, and had the second-best 2A time in that event this season (38.85), but did not run in that event at regionals. Oh, and he also won the triple jump at both his district and area meet.

Machala Hengen (Post)

girls 300 meter hurdles and 4x400 meter relay (2nd leg)

As a freshman in 2017, she finished 6th in the 300 hurdles at the state meet and ran a leg of Post’s 4x400 relay, which finished 9th and in last place. Now a sophomore, she’ll run the 300 hurdles again and has the fastest 2A girls seed time by 1.12 seconds (44.77). Her regional time beat her previous personal best by a full two seconds, and was 1.53 seconds faster than the time that won at last year’s state meet. She’ll have to improve her personal best by another second to surpass the 2A girls state meet record (43.71). Hengen will also run the second leg of Post’s 4x400 relay team, which has the third best seed time (4:07.62) in its final.

Summer Grubbs (Gladewater Union Grove)

girls long jump, 200 meter dash, and 4x400 meter relay

The state meet will mark the end of a decorated high school career for the three-sport east Texan. Along with being a two-time all-state honoree in basketball and volleyball, she has reached the state track meet four times. At the 2017 state meet, she won the 2A girls long jump (17-10.25), anchored Union Grove’s 1st place 4x200 relay team (1:43.84), and ran the third leg of the 2nd place 4x400 relay team. She also finished 7th in the 200 meters, but has the third-best seed time in that event this year (25.78) and should improve on her previous finish. Defending her long jump crown will be a challenge, as seven of the other 2A state finalists have surpassed Grubbs’s season-best of 17’ this year.

Class 1A events and athletes to watch

Girls 3,200 meter run

Three of the four fastest seed times were run by freshmen, including the top seed time, 11:49.98, run by Jorja Bessonett (Cumby Miller Grove), who won the 1A cross county state meet last fall. She also has the top seed time in the 1A 1,600 meters group (5:28.18).

Girls 800 meter run

The top five finishers from last year’s state final all return. Saltillo junior Sienna Collins, who set a 1A state meet record (2:19.75) last year, has the second-best seed time, while last year’s silver medalist, junior Camille Harris (Rocksprings), has the top seed time of 2:20.67, and her younger sister Skylar Harris, a freshman, has the third-best seed time.

Jake Merrell (Turkey Valley)

boys 800 meter run, 1,600 meter run, and 4x400 meter relay (anchor leg)

He’ll be going for his fourth straight gold medal in the 1A boys 800m state final. The Baylor signee already holds the 1A state meet record (1:54.10), and his seed time of 1:50.45 is the 2nd best time in the nation this year, and nearly ten seconds ahead of the next-best seed time among the 1A boys finalists. He may have the ability to challenge the 800 meter state record of 1:48.21 (set in 2001 by Jonathan Johnson of Abilene), but nobody in this race will seriously challenge him, and he may choose to coast and conserve his energy for the 1,600 meter final and 4x400 relay later in the day. Merrell is listed as the anchor for Valley’s 4x400 relay, which has the top seed time in its group (3:29.29).

Girls 4x400 meter relay

Blum set a 1A state meet record a year ago with a winning time of 4:10.09, and three of the runners from that relay squad are also part of this year’s foursome, which ran a 4:10.30 at regionals and has the top seed time by nearly four seconds.

Austin Zirkel (Medina)

boys 1,600 meter run, 3,200 meter run, and 4x400 meter relay (anchor leg)

He’s a two-time state cross country champion and last year finished 2nd to Jake Merrell in the 1A boys 800, 1,600, and 3,200 finals. He’ll have the 3,200 all to himself this time and has the top seed time by over 36 seconds. He may have the best chance of denying Merrell a gold medal in the 1,600, which they will run shortly before both are scheduled to anchor their 4x400 meter relay teams. In last year’s 1,600 final, Merrell was ahead of Zirkel by 1.2 seconds going into the final lap and pulled away with a 58.693 last lap to finish in 4:23.79 and win by over seven seconds. Zirkel ran a 4:24.17 at last month’s 1A Region IV meet and showed that he’s a credible threat to challenge Merrell in that event and might finally take home his first gold medal in his fourth and final trip to the state meet. Zirkel is a Sam Houston State track signee and plans to join the army after college.

Morgan Whitfield (Iredell)

boys 110 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles

He’s the defending 1A boys 110 hurdles champion and has the top seed time in that event by 0.78 seconds. He also has the top seed time in the 300 hurdles final (40.95). The other top contender in the latter event is last year’s 2nd place finisher Braden Rhode (Fayetteville), a senior who is competing at his third state meet and ran a 40.32 in last year’s 300 hurdles final.

Chase Thompson (Rule)

boys 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and 400 meter dash

He won last year’s 1A boys 100 meter and 400 meter state final and was 4th in the 200 meters. Now a junior, he’s back at the state meet in all three events. He came within 0.03 of the 1A state meet record in the 400 last year and has the top seed time in that event going into this year’s meet, along with the top seed time in the 200 (22.50)

Kenzie Jordan (Water Valley)

girls 200 meter dash, high jump, and 4x200 meter relay (anchor leg)

As a freshman in 2016, she won the 1A girls 200m final in 25.84, setting a state meet record for that classification. She didn’t make it out of regionals last year but is back and has this year’s top seed time in the 200m by a half-second (25.97). She will also compete in the 1A girls high jump and run the anchor leg on Water Valley’s 4x200 relay team, which has the second-best seed time in that final.

Zoe Burleson (Rocksprings)

girls discus and shot put

She won the 1A girls shot put and discus as a freshman at last year’s state meet, setting a 1A state meet record (139’2”) in the latter event. She’ll be competing in both events again this week. She holds the top seed mark in the discus by nearly six feet, and her season-best throw of 142-10 is the 8th best throw this season by a Texas girl, in any classification. I’m fairly certain she is the daughter of former Texas Longhorn linebacker/fullback/tight end Jason Burleson (who played at UT from 1989 to 1992) and the sister of Lance Burleson, who won the 1A boys shot put and finished 2nd in the discus at the 2015 state meet.

Gentrye Munden (Blum)

girls 4x100 meter relay (anchor leg), 4x200 meter relay (anchor leg), 4x400 meter relay (3rd leg), high jump, and triple jump

She’s a senior who will compete in five events this weekend and will finish her career having competed in 17 events at various state meets. She’ll be in the 1A girls high jump final for a fourth straight year, and in previous trips she has finished as high as 3rd (in 2016). She ran a leg of Blum’s gold medal-winning 4x400 relay team last year and has been a part of two other relays that finished 3rd. She has cleared the high jump bar at 5’10” this season, tied for the third best jump of any high school girl in Texas, and aside from the high jump she’ll compete this weekend in the triple jump and run a leg on all three relays. Last fall she earned all-state honors in volleyball and helped lead Blum to a 1A state runner-up finish.