Months and years of preparation and workouts will come down to a few seconds in the spotlight for Wise County’s elite track and field athletes.
Competitors from Decatur, Chico, Alvord, Northwest and Slidell will head to Austin Friday and Saturday for the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships at Mike Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.
Wise County athletes will compete in 16 events.
Here’s a quick look at those who will try to bring home a medal:
Northwest’s Zach Kirkland and Decatur’s Taylor Clayton will try to wrap up strong careers on the medal stand.
Clayton will run in the 3A 3200 and 1600 races. He is seeded second in both races to rival and future Texas A&M teammate Jacob Perry.
“I’m ready to put it all on the track and try to get the gold,” Clayton said. “I’m sick of being behind Jacob.”
Perry leaned across the finish to narrowly beat Clayton in the 1600 at regionals.
“I’m ready to beat him. I just need a couple of things to go my way,” he said.
Clayton beat Perry in cross country in November, bringing home the 3A state title.
Kirkland returns to Austin in a new event. He ran the 800 last year. This year, he is running the 1600. His 4:18.65 from the Class 5A Region I meet is second to the Region I champion Austen Dalquist of Keller.
“I’m contending for the gold medal,” Kirkland said.
He said he put in some of his hardest workouts leading up to state. He said he feels better about his chances this year in the 1600 as opposed to the 800.
“I’m running against my kind of guys. I know what I’m up against.”
Alvord’s Savannah Williams stood on the medal stand last year, taking second in the Class 2A race.
The Alvord junior is ready to move up a step in her return to Austin.
“My goal is to set the [school] record and get the gold,” Williams said.
After her 2:22.8 at regionals, she enters state seeded fourth.
Since finishing fourth last year at state, Decatur’s Brandon Rivera has been focused solely on bringing home a state title in the 800.
“I’m hoping four years of hard work pays off,” he said. “My goal is to bring back the record and gold at the same meet.”
He would need a 1:54.86 to break the school record. His best time this year is 1:56. It’s the top 3A time. He is seeded third based off his regional time of 1:58.46. Rivera was passed at the finish line at regionals by Kaufman’s Dylan Evans ending his unbeaten run.
Slidell’s Caitlin Pruett will be making her debut at state. She won the 800 at the Class A Division II Region III meet in 2:25.93 to earn the state trip.
“I’m excited. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” Pruett said. “Last year, I was third at regionals by 8-tenths of a second. I was motivated to work harder and get to state.”
Wise County will be heavily represented in the hurdles with runners in the 5A, 3A, 2A and A Division II races.
Slidell freshman Kayson Roof will run in the girls 300 hurdles race after winning the A Division II Region III title in 50.12. She is just 0.12 seconds behind the top time heading into state.
Decatur’s Jacob Kevetter will be in the 3A boys 300. He took second at 3A Region II race in 39.65. He is seeded seventh heading to state.
Northwest’s Kerry Gleason will make his debut at state, running in the 110 and 300 races. He took silver medals at the 5A Region I race in both, running 14.33 and 37.9.
“I’m so excited. The year started slow but the past couple of weeks, I’ve been hitting it hard,” Gleason said. “I’ve never been to state. To do it my senior year is amazing. It’s the best way to end my high school career.”
Boyd’s Dalton Stidham enters the state meet tied for the best time in the 110 hurdles after his 2A Region II winning time of 14.51. He is seeded fifth in the 300 hurdles after running a 39.25.
“I’m going for gold,” Stidham said. “It’s going to be a good race. I’ll have to run my best times.”
SPRINTS AND RELAYS
Boyd sophomore Qualynn Wells captured the 2A Region II title in the 200 to earn a state spot. He ran a 22.21 and that has him seeded sixth in this weekend’s race.
He expects to contend for the title.
“I think I want it more than the other guys,” he said.
Northwest’s 4×100 squad of Saveion James, Chase Morrison, Reggie McDaniel and Jordan Muldrow battled through early season injuries to earn their state spot with a 5A Region I title.
The team ran a 41.18 to win the region title. That time has them seeded second at state.
“This is a good way to go out,” said McDaniel, a senior. “Early in the year, I didn’t think we’d make it. But we kept getting PRs at every meet.”
The group owns the school record and hopes to get under 41 seconds at state.
“We have the perfect opportunity to win state,” Muldrow said.
American high school indoor and outdoor record holder Desiree Freier is heading to Austin for the fourth time to try for her third state title in the 5A girls pole vault.
The Northwest senior does not take a state trip for granted.
“I’ve been very fortunate to get down there every year,” Freier said. “A lot of people work their hardest and never make it.”
Freier is hoping to break her record of 14-3 and get 14-5 and 14-9 at state.
Slidell’s Kayson Roof hopes to match Freier’s feat of making it to state four straight years one day. The freshman won the girls pole vault at the Class A Division II Region III meet, clearing 9 feet. She is seeded second entering state, 3 inches behind Ira’s Samantha Bloom.
Northwest’s Duke Kicinski will try to cap a strong career with a state medal in the 5A discus. He took second at the 5A Region II meet with a throw of 178-6. He is seeded fifth, seven feet behind the leader.
“We’re all real close. I just need to have a good day,” he said.
Competing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Chico’s Marshall Anderle earned his state berth, taking second at the Class A Region II meet in the triple jump. Anderle jumped 45-7.5. He is seeded third at state.
“This means everything,” he said. “This is my last year, and I wanted to go to state.”
He credited all the rehab after injuring his knee in football for helping earn the state trip.
UIL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
FRIDAY, MAY 9
9:40 a.m. 3A boys 3200
(Decatur’s Taylor Clayton)
6:20 p.m. 2A girls 800
(Alvord’s Savannah Williams)
6:45 p.m. 2A 110 hurdles
(Boyd’s Dalton Stidham)
8:05 p.m. 2A 300 hurdles
(Boyd’s Dalton Stidham)
8:25 p.m. 2A 200
(Boyd’s Qualynn Wells)
SATURDAY, MAY 10
8 a.m. A Triple jump
(Chico’s Marshall Anderle)
9 a.m. A D-II Pole Vault
(Slidell’s Kayson Roof)
12:20 p.m. A D-II, 3A 800
(Slidell’s Caitlin Pruett and Decatur’s Brandon Rivera)
2 p.m. 5A Pole Vault
(Northwest’s Desiree Freier)
2:05 p.m. A D-II, 3A 300 Hurdles
(Slidell’s Kayson Roof and Decatur’s Jacob Kevetter)
2:45 p.m. 3A 1600
(Decatur’s Taylor Clayton)
5 p.m. 5A Discus
(Northwest’s Duke Kicinski)
6 p.m. 5A 4×100
6:45 p.m. 5A 110 Hurdles
(Northwest’s Kerry Gleason
8:25 p.m. 5A 300 Hurdles
(Northwest’s Kerry Gleason)
9:05 p.m. 5A 1600
(Northwest’s Zack Kirkland)