|NH distance runners hold state fortunes|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 13, 2004 -- Already part of one state championship team, three North Hopkins distance runners will be going for seconds this weekend.
The performances of senior Mary Casey, junior Kate Hollenshead and freshman Sabra Thomas will go a long way in the Lady Panthers' goal of a state title at the UIL State Track and Field Meet Friday and Saturday. They were each integral parts of North Hopkins state-winning cross country team in the fall.
"The state track meet is different from the cross country meet because it seems kids seem to get more nervous at the track meet because it's enclosed and the amount of people there," said NH head girls track coach Tim Menke. "But, the heat may be a factor more than the number of people.
"I think they'll run their best times of the year if it's not too hot. I sure hope so, because they all have a chance to medal if they run their best."
Casey and Thomas will each be in the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter runs, while Hollenshead returns to state in the 800. Last year as a sophomore, Hollenshead placed seventh in the 800 and fifth in the 3,200 at state.
She had the fourth-best qualifying time at the regional meet in the half mile with a 2:27.57, but was only one second out of the second-best time. At the state cross country meet, she placed second individually.
"I'm still nervous. I guess it helps having been to a state meet before and running in front of a lot of people," she said. "But, there is going to be a lot more people at this meet than at cross country."
The Lady Panthers won the team track championships at district, area and regional. Coach Menke believes they will need to rack up 40-45 points to win the state meet.
He's hoping for 16-18 points in both the 3,200 and 1,600 from Casey and Thomas. Casey has the best qualifying time in the metric mile with a 5:32.10, and comes in with the second-best time in the 3,200 at 11:57.18.
Thomas, who with classmate Ebbonye Johnson are the only two freshman to qualify for state since Menke has been coach, has the third-best qualifying time in the 3,200 at 12:02.05, and the fourth-best in the 1,600 at 5:37.80.
"We're not as nervous because we're together," Casey said. "I'm glad there's somebody else from my school there. It'll make it easier."
Casey will likely go out hard in both races since she usually runs from the front of the pack. Thomas said she will "run as hard as she can."
"I've never really prepared for something like this. I'm just going to run as hard as I can," Thomas explained. "I'm going to try to stay up with Mary, stay as close to her as I can, that's what I usually do."
The 3,200 will be run at 9 a.m. Friday, while the 1,600 is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Saturday which should give them time to re-energize since both girls are accustomed to running numerous events. Besides the two distance races, Casey also ran on the 1,600 relay during the season, while Thomas was in the 800. Hollenshead was also a member of the 1,600 relay.
"We wanted to get the mile relay to state," Hollenshead said. "Running fewer events probably will help, though, because you can concentrate on that one event. You don't have to worry about holding anything back and saving any thing because you have other races."
Casey is also juggling her softball duties. The Lady Panthers won their area round playoff game on Tuesday and will play in the regional semifinals next week. She's been a part of the district championship volleyball and basketball teams as well.
"The fact they're running fewer events should help the times," said Menke. "Our times at the state qualifiers meet weren't real good, but we had done a speed workout the day before and they hadn't recovered from that.
"We've got an outside chance; we want to win the state track meet. We've got six slots. If everyone does what they're capable of doing, we have a chance."