After finishing second Friday in the 3200, Decatur’s Taylor Clayton gave himself one mission in the 1600 – win.
The Decatur senior accomplished that mission Saturday at Mike Myers Stadium, winning his final duel in the sun against rival Jacob Perry.
Clayton took the Class 3A title at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships, holding off Perry in the final 100 meters to win in 4:25.97. Perry took second in 4:26.97.
“I had a bad taste in my mouth coming out of the two-mile,” Clayton said. “I got embarrassed in front of everybody, and I didn’t want to go out like that. I’ve worked too hard for it. I didn’t want a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted nothing less than a gold medal around my neck.”
The victory gives Clayton two-thirds of the 3A distance triple crown. Clayton won the 3A cross country title in the fall and finished second in the 3200 to Perry.
“Obviously it hurts because I came up one short,” Clayton said. “But hey, there’s tons of kids in the state of Texas who would kill to have two gold medals in their events. I’ve just got to know that I’m one of the blessed ones, that I had the great career and great coaching.”
Clayton led wire-to-wire. He took the field out in 67 seconds for the first lap and hit the 800 at 2:17.
“Coach wanted me to originally take it out in a 2:06,” Clayton said. “I tell you that every single time. I thought this was going to be the chance to do it. But then I stepped out on the track and felt how hot and windy it was.
“I told myself that you’re going to have to dig deep and try to lead from start to finish. Just keep everyone behind you, keep pushing forward and try to hit that 200 and don’t let anyone pass you.”
Clayton never backed off the pace, hitting the 1,100 mark at 3:17 and 1,200 at 3:25.
With 300 meters to go, Perry tried to make a surge similar to the one he used to win the 3,200 the previous day. But this time, Clayton did not go away.
“It was a good race,” Perry said. “I wanted to take off like I did in the two-mile, but I couldn’t get going until the 200.”
Clayton stayed inside of Perry and a step ahead through the final turn. In the final 100, he kept pushing across the track to make sure Perry couldn’t get around him.
“I was just telling myself not to fall. I could feel my legs going out from under me,” Clayton said. “I could see his shadow, and I knew if I could keep going out a little bit that he couldn’t get around me. They can’t DQ you for that. I just used strategy and speed.”
Perry was surprised to see Clayton swinging wide.
“I thought he was going to take me to lane 8,” Perry joked.
With the finish line in sight, Clayton stayed on the gas, completing a 60-second final lap. He said he knew the title was his midway through the final straightaway.
“I felt [Perry] let up with about 60 meters to go. I knew that’s when I had it,” Clayton said. “I could see that finish line getting closer, and closer and I couldn’t see any purple beside me.”
Clayton and Perry will be teammates next year at Texas A&M. This weekend they owned the medal stand in the 3A distance events. In the 1600, they were joined by a third district 9-3A representative, Sanger’s Josh Mills, who was third in 4:28.43.
“It just shows that 9-3A distance is the best distance in 3A,” Clayton said.
And for 2014, Clayton is 3A’s best distance runner with a second gold medal.
“This has been a dream come true,” Clayton said. “I’ve been working for this for four years – since I was a little punk.”
3A BOYS 1600
1. Taylor Clayton, Decatur, 4:25.97
2. Jacob Perry, Sanger, 4:26.23
3. Josh Mills, Sanger, 4:28.43
4. Justin Domangue, Alvarado, 4:28.47
5. Sam Farrell, Lufkin Hudson, 4:29.63
6. Marty Luevano, Boerne, 4:30.09
7. Jonathon Bishop, College Station, 4:33.81
8. Eduardo Trevizo, Castleberry, 4:33.83
9. Luis Garza, Zapata, 4:46.61