By this time, track and field coaches are busy pacing and biting their fingernails in hopes their track athletes will have what it takes to advance past the regional level. Well, the wait has finally come to an end, according to Thursday afternoon reports made by UIL.Announcement by the UIL: “The decision to suspend competition was not a decision we took lightly,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “Much effort and consideration was given to resurrect the regional track meets and change the dates for the state meet. With the cooperation of our regional sites and the University of Texas, we are now able to hold the regional and state track meets as we had originally intended.” Additionally, the state track meet is scheduled to be held June 5-6 at Myers Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin.
Area 1A schools were making plans to already be on the road to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches to participate in the Region III track meet that includes athletes from Districts 17-24 in Conference 1A. Initially, Homer Bryce Stadium was the host site for the track and field participants.
Cumby, Miller Grove, Yantis, Sulphur Bluff, and North Hopkins, school districts in Region III-1A, are tentatively scheduled for regional track meet on Friday, May 15-Saturday, May 16 at Palestine ISD. UIL is aware that conflicts with the change are still likely to occur, yet UIL still believes that this revised “schedule represents the best opportunity for the most students,” stated Breithaupt.
Although UIL does not directly say, but the changes came about due to the responses made by those involved. The original reactions from the area 1A schools were accounted.
Cumby Superintendent Shaun Barnett expressed, “The state is trying to do what is in the best interest of the kids, and we need to take that they (UIL) know what they are doing. It is truly an unprecedented situation. We need to be smart, supporting of UIL. We want to compete, but on the other hand I don't want to be the one that sends the child that comes back with this disease. No one wants that guilt.”
The swine flu health outbreak has dampened many school activities UIL and group activities and field trips alike. “I don't like how it mess up the flow of things. I have postponed a school trip to NASA, to avoid Houston. It will work out. They (UIL) will make the right decision,” said Barnett.
Under the previous ruling by UIL, the only runners in the surrounding coverage area of 1A schools that would have proceeded on would possibly have been only Erick Perez of North Hopkins in the 3,200-meter run, Everett Wilder of Sulphur Bluff, possibly in both long distance events (1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs), Yantis hurdler Amanda McKinney and triple jumper Terry Thompson, both of Yantis. All of the district results were not available at the time.
“It sounds like the UIL is still considering some changes,” said North Hopkins athletic director and head track coach Tim Menke in reference to the originally UIL statement. “Erick Perez has the fourth best time in the 3,200-meter run; although, one district has not posted times. So that may change. The system does seem unfair especially for the sprinters where hundreds of a second makes a difference-too many variables. We are somewhat in a holding mode right now. We will continue to train our kids until we are sure what is going to happen. I have no problem going to Austin. I think you just have to use some common sense when in public.”
Sulphur Bluff head track coach Charles Wright, Sulphur Bluff had his own concerns that related to how UIL initially handled the swine flu. “My concern is the manner in which UIL proposed to resolve the cancellations. The (former) plan set forth by UIL eliminated many athletes, by taking their chance to prove themselves on the track, and making that decision based on times from district meets that could have been affected by weather or lack of competition. My athletes were obviously upset. These athletes have put in a lot of hard work this spring, and they should be afforded the opportunity to accomplish their goals on the track. We relieved in the recent news of UIL's reconsideration of this plan. And hope it will come to fruition to best serve all of the athletes and allow them to participate in the regional track meet.”
Miller Grove Hornet Andrew Steele placed fourth in his high jump competition at area at Hawkins. “Andrew took it fine. He was disappointed that he was not going to get to compete,” pointed out Gary Billingsley, Miller Grove track coach. “The school has added germ-x dispensers around campus to help prevent germs from spreading.”
“I agree with the idea of preventing this from spreading; however, I do not agree with the action taken (that was taken). I did not see what the harm would have been in allowing for two weeks to go by and then having the regional track meets. I know that many athletes do not have to run their best times to get to regionals, because of the lack of competition in their district or area for 1A,” he added. “I am glad that (with the new development by UIL) none of these kids will loss out on the opportunity to possibly compete at Austin.”
For Yantis, 100-meter hurler Amanda McKinney and triple jumper Terry Thompson each placed second in their perspective events at district. “This was not going to affect our two tracksters who advanced, however, just because it does not affect us, does not mean it was a good idea. I had already heard from two former assistants, who both coach baseball (instead of track), on how their school has some athletes who were going to really get shafted. They really needed to re-think how they were going to allow kids to advance in track,” stated Yantis athletic director Jack Bowles.
“I think the format for them going straight to state was not fair, for someone like Amanda who had only ran the hurdles three times. We have been working out everyday to try an get her to either four or three-step the hurdle, she is improving but if the UIL ruling had stuck all of her hard work would have been for nothing if she had not made the top four. She is a senior, and her first time to make it to regionals since she was a freshman. Amanda took the news good; she is still willing to go work out everyday even though she may not get to run,” said Yantis head track coach Jennifer Payne.
Saltillo athletic director Garry Davison had thoughts on the previous ruling. “I think the UIL is taking the approach 'it is better to be safe than sorry'. As of right now no one in our school has come down with the swine flu, so we are trying to keep everything as normal as possible.”
First Thoughts on the Regional Track Meet
For Cumby track Coach Gary Parrish it is all about pride and that is what he has in his multi-sport competitors. “Our kids will run their best times at regionals, I have no doubts-they will perform,” Parrish said. “I enjoy coaching football, but a track program says so much about the quality of the kids.”
Cumby Trojan Timmy Cook has qualified for regional competition in both the 800- and 400-meter runs. In District 17-1A, Cook placed second clocking a 2:16.50 in the 800-meter run and fourth in the 400-meter with 55.18. Cook competes in football, basketball, track, and baseball. “He is looking great, his stride and conditioning are coming together. I think he will run his best race,” coach added.
Representing the Cumby Lady Trojans will be Savanah Neal in the 300-meter hurdles and triple jump, and Laura Oviedo will run in the 200-meter run and both the long and triple jump field events. Running in four legs of the girls' mile relay from Cumby will be Courtney Salinas, Neal, Ashley Anderson, Oviedo, and alternate Valerie Partridge.
Lady Trojan sophomores Neal, Oviedo and Anderson are returning to regionals for a second year. Oviedo competed in the triple jump, 800-meter relay, and the 1,600-meter relay but failed to qualify for the finals last year. “It was really exciting,” Oviedo said Tuesday in reference to last year's performance. “I was proud of myself making it in more events this year, but I'm a little anxious still. I am very proud of my team. I really want to make it to the finals that would be an accomplishment.”
Coach Parrish is very positive about the outlook of his track program and eagerly awaits the day when Cumby can have its own track. “It is coming together,” said Parrish in regards to the talent that will be moving up from the junior high level. Disappointment fell upon the team when the 800-meter relay team missed their exchange zone at area meet on April 15. “I feel pretty confident,” said Neal now that she knows what to expect.
Last year she participated in the triple and long jump field events, 800-meter relay, 1,600-meter relay, and 100-meter hurdles (clearing finals to place seventh in the hurdles). “It was kind of weird (last year)-in the preliminaries everyone did their worst ever, times were slow across the board.” Neal mentioned about her nervousness as a freshman. They did find an unusual way to cut the nerves. “Before the relay, we find a ladybug and each of us must hold it.” Neal is also a multi-sport competitor, succeeding in volleyball, basketball, softball (last year only), and track. “I decided not to play softball this year to put all my concentration into track, but I do miss it,” admitted Neal.
“I am the third leg on the mile relay,” said Anderson, another returning sophomore trackster. “We are running our fastest time (and we were in a really hard district this year). Last year I was more nervous especially because no coaches or anyone was allowed down on the field with me.” In 2008, Anderson competed in the 800-meter run, 800-meter relay, and 1,600-meter relay that finished ninth, just one place away from the finals. “We practice,” Anderson stated. “We practiced the day after the area meet, we practice everyday even Saturdays. Everyone shows up.” And that is exactly what Parrish hopes will happen and more to advance to state.
Miller Grove Hornet high jumper Andrew Steele cleared 5-8 at the area meet in Hawkins to qualify with his fourth place finish. “The area meet well for Andrew. He has not had much time to get on the track and practice,” said Miller Grove coach Gary Billingsley. “He jumped 5-10 in the eighth grade as well as last year. Hopefully, he can get to that level at the regional meet. He has gained about 15 pounds this year so it is a little different jumping with the added weight, he has added from the weight room.”
Yantis regional trackster Amanda McKinney qualified with a time of 18.03 in the 100-meter hurdles at the area meet. She will face Cumby's Neal along with others from Region III. In addition, McKinney just recently advanced out of regional golf to move onto state competition.
"Amanda (McKinney) is doing very well in track this year, last year at our first track meet she was injured and unable to compete her junior year," said Yantis head track coach Jennifer Payne. "As a senior and this being her last year, she came in more determined than ever. We had decided she would run 300-meter hurdles, without her knowledge at the district meet I entered her into the 100-meter hurdles as well. She had never even jumped a 100-meter hurdle." At district, McKinney placed second and went on to advance from area with a fourth place.
"We have been working extremely hard on the hurdles. I feel she has the speed and talent to make it all the way to state. She was my only athlete this year to make it to the region meet," added Payne.
Terry Thompson, Yantis Owl, took second place in the triple jump event leaping a final jump of 39-6.75 at district, while finishing fifth at in the same event at area with a distance of 39.5. With the new ruling he will go to the regional track meet as an alternate according to Coach Payne.
At Sulphur Bluff, long distance runner Everett Wilder, pole vaulter Dylan Horn, and 800-meter runner Trey Henderson will be returning to regionals again. “Everett has qualified every year since his sophomore year. Trey and Dylan have both qualified every year since entering high school,” said Sulphur Bluff Bears coach Charles Wright. “We practice in Mount Vernon and every once in a while we run at the middle school track in Sulphur Springs, and we are very appreciative of these schools allowing us to practice at their facilities.”
“Everett (Wilder) has an excellent chance to make it out of regionals in both the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter runs. He has improved significantly from last year's sixth place finish at state in the 3,200-meter run, improving his personal best in the 3,200-meter last year by 21 seconds from a 10:25 to a 10:04 which he ran at Winona several weeks ago, and at the same meet he ran another personal best in the 1,600-meter run, running a 4:40. Everett is a senior and has worked very hard over the last four years, and Lord willing things will work out so that he can compete at the state meet, and have a great chance to win in both of his events,” said Wright.
Wilder will face Erick Perez from North Hopkins in both long distance races this weekend. The winning time in the 1,600-meter run at state was 4:33.02 and 9:53.50 for the 3,200-meter run both achieved by Andrew Gordon of Evant High School. Gordon has graduated and is attending Western Texas College-competing for the Westerners track and field team, making a path for a new champion.
“Trey (Henderson) made it to regionals as a freshman in the 3,200-meter run and last year in the 800-meter and the 1,600-meter runs. Last year, he finished sixth place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:08 and also eighth in the 1,600-meter run at regionals,” said the coach. “Trey has had a few setbacks this year with sickness and injuries earlier in the season, but he has recovered and he is catching up quickly to where he finished last year. We are hoping for a better showing this year at the regional meet, capitalizing on his experience from last year and quality workouts of late should give him a great chance to make it out of regionals.”
Wright continued, “Dylan (Horn) has advanced for the second year in a row in the pole vault event. In 2008, his best jump was 10-6 earning him a tie for sixth place as a freshman. This year he cleared 11-0 in Hawkins at the area meet, and has actually cleared 12-0 in practice which will hopefully transfer over to this weekend's meet. Dylan is definitely an underdog at the regional meet, but he has great potential and hopefully things will go his way Friday when he jumps.”
The minimum height recorded at state for 1A boys pole vault was 13-0 for eighth place last year.
North Hopkins will be supporting two long distance runners in both long distance events, representing the Panthers-Erick Perez and the Lady Panthers-Haley Flanagan, at regional competition. “Both kids really come out and work hard-all of our kids do,” said Tim Menke, North Hopkins athletic director and head track coach. Menke has emphasized the competition between Wilder of Sulphur Bluff and Perez. The two went first and second in the 3,200-meter run at the area contest, and first and fourth in the 1,600-meter run. Perez was all-state in cross country this year.
All in all, UIL has had the final say in the outcome. Ultimately, it is the safety and wellness that is the main concern for all involved.
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