On a steamy, soupy morning, Decatur’s Taylor Clayton spent seven laps around Mike Myers Stadium trying to shake rival Jacob Perry of Sanger.
But Perry matched each of Clayton’s strides before making his own surge in the final 300 meters to pull away and capture the Class 3A 3200 title at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships in Austin.
Perry, who was the bronze medalist in 2013, ran 9:30.73 to capture the gold. Clayton finished three seconds back in 9:33.45.
“We went out slow, but I’m happy with what I did,” Perry said. “It’s crazy. A year ago, I never saw this coming. My best was a 9:43 before the state meet last year – and I came down here and ran a 9:23.”
Clayton, the 3A gold medalist in cross country, was hoping to add another top medal to his collection.
“The medal was expected. I was hoping it was a gold one,” Clayton said. “That’ll haunt me for the rest of my life, or until college. I couldn’t match him for 20 yards.”
Clayton and Perry will be teammates next year at Texas A&M.
“He’s a good opponent. I can’t wait to be teammates with him,” Perry said.
Clayton planned to set a quick pace to wear out the legs of Perry and the rest of the field. He led the field out for a 69-second opening lap, and finished the 800 in 2:21, a second ahead of Perry.
After laps of 73 and 74, Clayton and Perry finished the first mile in 4:47. That’s when Clayton knew he was in trouble.
“The pace was too slow for me to win,” he said. “I felt like I was trying to push it. I was wanting to be at 4:32 and then run 2:16 to 2:18 over the final 800. Conditions weren’t right for me. The humidity took it out of me.”
Perry and Clayton traded leads, hitting 2400 meters at 7:16 within a step of each other. Clayton made a slight surge with 600 to go, but Perry answered.
Clayton and Perry took the bell at 8:29. Coming out of the corner with 300 meters left, Perry made his decisive move and broke to the front.
“I couldn’t get going from farther out,” Perry said. “The bell lap, I felt great. In the past races, I made the move with 200 or 100 left. I took off with 300. I went hard the last 300 and kept hammering it.
“I was going to go as fast as I could and gassed it the last 300. By the 100, I knew if I didn’t let up that I could pull away with the win.”
Clayton tried to respond, but couldn’t find the answer. He held off Lufkin Hudson’s Sam Farrell for the silver. Farrell finished in 9:34.12.
“I’ve been working on mounting a surge. I just let him get too far out,” Clayton said. “I should’ve tried to go with him.”
Clayton and Perry, who have been first and second in the 3200 and 1600 at district, area and regionals this season, will have one more duel against each other under the sun at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in the 3A 1600 finals.
“I’m looking to bounce back and get him tomorrow. I want two golds and one silver, not two silvers and a gold,” Clayton said, counting his gold from cross country.