Decatur’s Taylor Clayton knew he had to gamble. Going into the 1600-meter final Saturday at the Class 3A Region II meet in Commerce, his qualifying time stood out of the top three.
“If I planned on beating them and advancing I was going to have to go out fast.” Clayton said.
That is exactly what the junior did. He jumped out to a commanding lead. His pace in the first 800 meters was seven to eight seconds ahead of normal.
The plan was to get a big early lead then hold off some of the top runners down the stretch.
Clayton’s advantage began to dwindle in the final two laps as Atlanta’s Chris Ibarra closed in.
Ibarra, then Kaufman’s Edwin Munoz, overtook Clayton in the final turn.
To hold onto third he had to hold off his district rival, Jacob Perry from Sanger. At the finish line Clayton lunged ahead to defeat Perry by three tenths of a second.
“My legs were gassed, and I was on fire,” Clayton said. “I wanted to go to state bad, and I knew if I didn’t kick it I wasn’t going.”
His third place time of 4:26 held up for a wild-card to state, advancing him to Austin in two events.
On Friday he took third in the 3200 with a time of 9:47, joining him with Nicole Neighbors as the two Decatur athletes to advance to state in two different events.
Brandon Rivera became the final Eagle to punch his ticket to Austin. Rivera took third in the 800 meters with a time of 1:58.
His time was better than any of the other third-place times out of Region I and Region II, but he had to wait until Monday because Region III was delayed due to weather.
Monday evening his goal was reached when he found out his time had held up.
“I’m very excited,” Rivera said. “Making it to state has been my goal all year.”
REGION II-3A RESULTS
TEAM STANDINGS (BOYS TOP TEN)
1. Celina … 81
2. Paris … 75
3. Atlanta … 59
4. Tyler Chapel Hill … 46
5. Liberty-Eylau … 42
6. Sanger … 35
7. Decatur … 34
8. Kaufman … 33
9. Dallas Madison … 32
10. Henderson … 30
100: 6. Gunnar Parker, 11.34.
400: 4. Michael Smyers, 51.01.
800: 3. Brandon Rivera, 1:58; 7. Daniel Smyers, 2:03.
1600: 3. Taylor Clayton, 4:26.
3200: 3. Taylor Clayton, 9:47.
110 hurdles: 6. Jacob Kevetter, 15.39.
4X400: 5. Decatur, (Grayson Muehlstein, Brandon Rivera, Michael Smyers, Travis Kyle), 3:25.
Pole Vault: 3. Kevin Haferland, 14-0.
Triple Jump: 15. Mason Clinesmith, 40-7.