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Half-milers lead pack into regional meet

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The 800 is considered one of the toughest challenges in track and field, testing the limits of the aerobic and anaerobic systems in athletes along with their will.

OUT IN FRONT – Decatur’s Brandon Rivera heads into the Class 3A Region II meet Saturday with the top time. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“You’ve got to be a tremendous athlete but have the desire to succeed and ability to finish when your body is screaming at you,” explains Decatur track coach David Park. “You have to have the mindset to push through and finish.”

This year, several Wise County athletes have been able to find the right balance of endurance and speed to establish themselves as state contenders heading into this weekend’s regional meets.

Three are not surprises after running the 800 on the state’s biggest stage last year – Decatur’s Brandon Rivera and Haley Dennard and Alvord’s Savannah Williams.

Williams captured the silver medal in the 2013 Class 2A final, running 2:21. She is the top returning 800 runner from last year after defending champion Crawford’s Ann Marie Dunlap chose to run the 1,600 and 3,200.

“It takes a lot of work and dedication to run the 800,” Williams said. “You have to be dedicated and work hard every day.”

Williams will run Saturday in Stephenville at the Class 2A Region II meet.

Dennard is the only area runner to top Williams this year. Dennard won the 3A Region II title last year and went on to seventh at state, running 2:22.87. Last week at the 3A 9/10 area meet, she ran 2:21 to win.

“She’s a close No. 2,” Park said about her spot in the region, heading into the 3A Region II meet Friday and Saturday at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Dennard has signed a letter of intent to run at Tarleton next year.

Rivera finished just off the medal stand at state last year, running 2:00.54 to finish fourth. Driven to bring home a title, Rivera has been unbeatable this spring, breaking two minutes at all but one race. He ran 1:56.95 to win the area title last week.

“Brandon is seeded No. 1,” Park said.

He said after last week’s win: “I hope to stay unbeaten through state.”

Slidell’s Caitlin Pruett and Northwest’s Baylee Nelson also head to regionals with shots to earn state spots.

Nelson ran 2:18.28 to finish second at the 5A 3/4 area meet Friday.

Northwest coach George Lutkenhaus said she will likely need to be around 2:15 at this weekend’s 5A Region I meet to get out.

“It’s very possible,” he said.

Pruett blew away the field at the Class A Division II 21/22 meet April 10, running 2:23.04.

“She’s in the top two out of what I’ve seen in the region,” said Slidell coach Cody Vanover.

Pruett will run at the A Region III Division II meet at Bullard High School Saturday.

Friday and Saturday

Texas Tech University
Local team: Northwest

Texas A&M-Commerce
Local teams: Decatur, Bridgeport

Tarleton State University
Local teams: Alvord, Boyd, Paradise

Abilene Christian
Local team: Chico

Bullard High School
Local team: Slidell