The biggest question Saturday wasn’t whether Taylor Clayton was going to state – but whether his Decatur Eagles teammates would get to go with him.
Clayton followed up his first-place finish at district by racing to a 10-second win over Kaufman’s Dylan Evans. Then the wait was on to see if the Eagles could score low enough to claim the third and final state team berth.
When the results were posted, the reigning state champions heaved a big sigh of relief. They were heading back to Round Rock to defend their title.
Decatur came away with 153 points, edging fourth-place Pleasant Grove who had 172. Kaufman took the top spot with 70 and Sanger secured second with 84.
The Eagles will compete at the state meet Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. The Class 3A boys are set to run at 11:10 a.m.
“You see kids work so hard every morning and the thought of one of them moving on and the other not would be a tough deal,” Decatur coach David Park said about both his teams advancing. “These two groups are family and to see them all get to go back makes you feel really good.”
Clayton made victory look easy, finishing in 16:16. Kaufman’s Evans was second in 16:26 and Sanger’s Jacob Perry, Clayton’s main rival, came in third.
“I didn’t have a great race today, but the rest of the field didn’t either,” Clayton said. “It was mushy, windy and there wasn’t anybody there to push me.”
With one race left, Clayton is feeling confident.
“I’m the regional champion individually and I wanted that really bad,” he said. “I’ve never been a state champion individually either, so I’m going to try to go in with the same mentality. There is another 30 seconds there if somebody gets on me.”
Austin Poole was the second Decatur finisher in 33rd with a time of 18:03. Tyler Wilson captured 37th in 18:10, and freshman Parker Cullop secured 50th in 18:23.
Sophomore Riley Keller was the fifth Eagle to cross the finish line, taking 59th with a time of 18:33.
Park had to rely on a lot of young guys to get the job done Saturday.
“It was a young group that had been JV runners, and they stepped up and ran like varsity guys,” Park said. “They’ve got a lot of good years ahead of them. They filled the role they needed to fulfill.”
Brandon Rivera ran 18:41 for 64th, and Joaquin Aldape took 71st in 18:52.