|Casey never looks back in winning 3,200 meters|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 14, 2004 -- AUSTIN - Mary Casey kept listening for the sound of footsteps close behind her Friday morning at Mike Myers Stadium, but there was no one there.
Casey took the lead early in the 3,200-meter run at the UIL State Track and Field Meet and was never caught as she ran her way to a gold medal, winning the metric two-mile in a personal best time of 11 minutes, 45.56 seconds.
The North Hopkins senior took the lead for good at the end of the first lap, opened up a comfortable 25-meter lead for most of the race, then sprinted the final lap to beat second-place Halie Jacobs of Throckmorton by eight seconds.
Casey's teammate, freshman Sabra Thomas, placed sixth in a time of 12:25.05, giving the Lady Panthers 11 points as a team after the first event.
Jacobs came into the race with the fastest qualifying time among the eight finalists, so Casey expected her to contend for the lead. But, Casey also likes to run from the front of the pack, so when she went out hard, there was no one there to tag along.
"I didn't want to turn around, because I get discouraged when people are close to me, so I just kept going," she said. "I couldn't hear her feet, so that made me feel better. I turned around a couple of times, but mostly I was just trying to run my race."
Casey ran the opening lap of the eight-lap race in 76 seconds, followed by laps of 84, 89 and 91 to give her a 5:40 first mile. She followed it with the final mile in a time of 6:05. Her final lap was 83 seconds, the fastest since her opening circuit.
With one lap remaining, Casey led Jacobs by about four seconds, but outsprinted her over the final lap to open up a comfortable margin of victory on an overcast, muggy morning following steady rains the night before.
"I was trying to get farther ahead because I'm scared of getting out sprinted in the end," Casey explained, "so I was trying to get as far ahead as I could. "I'm excited. I'm relieved now that I've won it."
This was Casey's second state meet after placing fourth her sophomore year. She missed the state meet last year after coming down with flu symptoms at the regional meet.
It was the first state track meet for Thomas, who like Casey was part of the state championship cross country team.
Running from the outside, she dropped near the back of the pack after the first 200 meters, pushed her way up to sixth on the second lap and held there for the remainder of the race.
"I thought both girls ran great," said an obviously proud coach Tim Menke. "I am real happy for Mary. She always trains hard and has had a great career. I'm very happy for her.
"Sabra ran very well as a freshman for the first time out. It's a whole new ball game when you get here. I look for Sabra to run a real good mile. She'll have had this race under her belt."
Both girls return to the track on Saturday for the 1,600-meter run. Casey has the best qualifying time in that event as well. Menke said she has a chance to win it also, if she runs like she did Friday morning. She shaved a full 12 seconds off her previous personal best time.
"Mary really ran her race because she likes to run from the front. We knew the Throckmorton girl would be right there," Menke said. "I was charting it, and Mary kept about a three second lead on each lap, then on that last one she really opened it up. She's been running that way all year. Everyone's happy for her."
The meet continues Friday evening with more Hopkins County flair as a pair of Sulphur Springs athletes will be competing. Senior Kendall Wright will compete in the 110-meter high hurdles at 7:05 p.m., while junior Keelan Green will be running the 100-meter dash at 7:25 p.m. Both have a solid chance at earning a medal.
Then, Saturday, it will be more North Hopkins as freshman Ebbonye Johnson competes in the high jump at noon, her brother William Johnson runs in the 400-meter dash at 2:10 p.m., while junior Kate Hollenshead runs the 800-meter dash for the second year in a row at 12:30 p.m., and Casey and Thomas compete in the 1,600 at 3:25 p.m.
Girls 1A 3,200-meter run
Mike Myers Stadium, Austin