With 300 meters left in the 3A 800-meter finals, Brandon Rivera’s quest for a gold medal looked to be in jeopardy as Taylor’s Mylik Kerley built a 50-meter lead.
But the Decatur senior stuck with his plan, running Kerly down in the final 100 meters Saturday to sprint to the top of the medal stand. Rivera won the Class 3A title at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin in 1:54.97.
“It means so much to me,” said Rivera looking at the medal. “It’s four years of hard work and a second state championship. It’s my first one as an individual. I wanted this since I was a freshman. I was .08 off the school record I think. But hey, I have that gold medal.”
Rivera was part of the Decatur boys cross country team that won the 2012 title. He finished just off the medal stand at the 2013 state track meet, taking fourth in the 3A 800.
Once the cross country season ended in the fall, Rivera dedicated himself to bringing home the gold, working out relentlessly.
But to accomplish his goal on the state’s biggest stage, his mind played as big a role as his legs. When Kerley sprinted out to the large, early lead, he stayed calm.
“Coach [David] Park told me if a rabbit goes out that he’d come back to you,” Rivera said. “That’s exactly what happened. He came back to me with about 200 meters left, and I knew I had it.”
His coach, Kristina Edwards was proud to see Rivera keep his composure and not try to go out with Kerley.
“We told him going into the weekend that someone would go out like that and if you go with him you won’t get that medal you wanted,” Edwards explained. “We told him to trust what we taught you.”
Rivera cut Kerley’s lead down from 50 to less than 10 meters with 150 left. He made the pass with 100 left.
“The final 100 meters I had so much left in me,” Rivera said. “I could see his running form go, and I knew if I finished the way I always do that I had him. That’s exactly what happened. A lot of hard work paid off.”
Sprinting to the finish line, Rivera flashed a smile and looked back at Kerley and Kaufman’s Dylan Evans, who ended up second in 1:55.62. Kerley was third in 1:56.10.
After crossing the finish line, he pumped the fist that would soon hold the gold medal.
“I was pretty emotional,” Rivera said. “I was so pumped. Happiness overfilled me. I was ecstatic.”
3A BOYS 800
1. Brandon Rivera, Decatur, 1:54.97
2. Dylan Evans, Kaufman, 1:55.62
3. Mylik Kerley, Taylor, 1:56.1
4. Samuel Studebaker, Fredericksburg, 1:59.55
5. Emory Lobley, Dalhart, 2:01.06
6. Caleb Johnson, Levelland, 2:01.41
7. Pierre Valencia, Dalhart, 2:01.74
8. Joseph Lunn, LaFeria, 2:02.07
9. Jeremy Matlock, Carthage, 2:02.09