AUSTIN (AP) — Diplomas, not medals, were the prize for dozens of the best track and field athletes in Texas at the finish line Friday.
Swine flu scares last month pushed the University Interscholastic League’s state track and field championships back three weeks from its usual May spot, putting this year’s event squarely in conflict with high school graduation ceremonies across Texas.
So the UIL held an on-the-track commencement of their own: caps and gowns flowing over spikes and shorts, and a walk across the finish line instead of a stroll across the stage.
‘‘I would’ve got dressed up, but it’s too hot,’’ said McAllen Memorial distance runner Tricia Terry, a valedictorian who never expected to graduate wearing track shoes.
As confirmed swine flu cases climbed and worried school districts shut down in April, the UIL suspended athletic events for more than a week. The ensuing scheduling crunch led the UIL to initially cancel all regional qualifying meets, until a backlash from coaches nixed that plan.
So the UIL instead pushed back the state championships, one of the largest track and field competitions in the country. About 70 seniors were expected to participate in the makeshift ceremonies Friday and Saturday.
Some tossed their tasseled caps and shed their gowns moments after getting their diploma so they could warm up. Among the graduates were Clyde valedictorian P.J. Martinez and salutatorian Emily Yates, who taped speeches to their 106-member senior class before coming to Austin.
‘‘I’m OK with missing it,’’ Martinez said. ‘‘There’s going to be 50 DVDs of it anyway.’’
Bonnie Richardson, by now the most well-known name from tiny Rochelle, Texas, had a solid start in her pursuit to repeat a historic feat.
Richardson made national news in Austin last year when she single-handedly won the Class A girls team championship, becoming the first girls athlete in state history to win a team title on her own.
She started off Friday by winning the gold in the long jump (17 feet, 4 inches) and high jump (5-8), and taking silver in the discus (126-9). She had a 28-10 lead over second-place Quanah.
On Saturday, the only girl who runs track at 59-student Rochelle High School will finish by competing in the 100 and 200 meters.
Richardson didn’t want to talk about the chance she has to repeat as a solo team champion. But acknowledged she had to work a little to keep it out of her mind.
‘‘It was a really good first day,’’ Richardson said.
A mostly full house at Mike A. Myers Stadium cheered when Mansfield Timberview’s Kristyn Williams broke a 4A 800 meters state record that stood for 27 years. They gasped when it was announced that she was only a freshmen.
It was the first of two victories Friday for Williams, whose twin sister Kaitlyn was the anchor on the winning 1,600 relay. Between the two speedy sisters, Timberview won its first 4A state team title and dethroned Lancaster for the first time in eight years.
Kristyn Williams won the 800 meter in 2:10.23, breaking the 4A record set in 1982 by one-tenth of a second.
|< Prev||Next >|