Feind named to technology post

Northwest ISD has named Adam Feind the district’s new chief technology officer.

Adam Feind

Feind comes to Northwest from Midway ISD, where he has led the district in strategic planning and one-to-one virtual desktop initiative for the past 16 years.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Feind to the Northwest ISD family,” said NISD Superintendent Karen Rue. “Mr. Feind brings a strong background in strategic planning, networking operations and instructional technology. I look forward to him sharing his expertise with NISD and assisting in the planning for future-ready learners.”

Feind will oversee technology, instructional technology and applications software at NISD. He will join the district this month.

Prior to a career in education, Feind served as a LAN manager for Providence Health Center and a computer operator for Brazos Electric Cooperative.

“I am excited to be a part of a school district that strongly aligns with my goals and vision for education,” Feind said. “I am eager to meet the staff and build upon the foundation already created in Northwest ISD.”

Feind received a bachelor’s of business administration in computer information systems from Baylor University. He is a Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) and is one of 15 technology leaders to hold this certification in the state of Texas.

As a member of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a professional association for school district technology leaders, Feind strives to grow tomorrow’s leaders through engaging learning environments. Last year, he was instrumental in leading a team from Cisco, along with other school districts, to restore network, telephone, wireless and internet access to West ISD elementary campuses for staff and students after the April 2013 fertilizer explosion in the community.

“I look forward to touching the lives of students and enhancing the learning experience in NISD,” Feind said. “Technology should be ubiquitous, accessible and robust, and I look forward to bringing Northwest ISD to the next level.”

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Gaston starts first season with Lady Texans

When the Northwest Lady Texans take the floor Monday, new faces will abound.

The Lady Texans graduated 10 seniors from last year’s District 4-5A runnerup that went 29-14. Northwest also underwent a change on the bench as longtime Lady Texans coach Dayna Horak retired.

Even with the changes, expectations remain high for the Lady Texans as they try to continue their string of playoff appearances.

In her first season, Amy Gaston is looking to establish a strong work ethic built around improving every time her team touches the floor.

“My expectations are to get better every day,” she said. “I firmly believe you are getting 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. The girls are embracing that. They are also understanding what it looks like to work hard.

“The playoff expectations are still in the program. But winning playoff games is what we want. That starts with competing day-in and day-out.”

While working with several new faces, Gaston will have a trio of veterans to help.

In the critical role of setter, Morgan Baker returns to bring court experience for a team with several young hitters.

“She’s a great competitor and has done everything I’ve asked of her,” Gaston said.

At middle blocker, two-year starter Tessa Harfield is back. Gaston has high expectations for the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville commitment.

After a standout freshman year, Camryn Berryhill is expected to be one of Northwest’s leading attackers. She burst on the scene last year, putting down 257 kills and making 203 digs and 28 blocks.

“There’s a lot more than people have seen out of Camryn,” Gaston said. “As a sophomore, she should be more effective.”

The Lady Texans will face a heavy challenge in the new 5-6A from Byron Nelson, Keller Central, Keller and Denton Guyer and Ryan.

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Freier breaks own record

For her 18th birthday Thursday, Desiree Freier flew to another United States record.

The 2014 Northwest graduate cleared 14.72 feet in the girls pole vault at the International Association of Athletics Federation World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Freier brought home the silver medal with her vault of 4.45 meters. Russia’s Alena Lutkovskaya took gold, equaling the meet record of 4.5 meters.

Eliza McCartney of New Zealand finished third, also clearing 4.45 meters.

“I can honestly say this was the most amazing meet I’ve been to,” Freier said. “The crowd was amazing. All three of us were PR’ing every bar. It was intense and good competition.”

Freier made three attempts at 14-9.

“They said I was close to clearing and if I had one more grip I would have had it,” Freier said.

“I did pretty good. I didn’t get the height I wanted, but I broke the junior record and the high school national record.”

Freier, a three-time state champion in the 5A pole vault and the U.S. 2014 Junior Champion, broke her previous record of 14-3.25 from the Texas Relays. She also holds the indoor record at 14-2.75 from the New Balance Indoor meet.

It was the first time since the start of 2014 that Freier did not take gold at a meet.

She will be vaulting at the University of Arkansas in 2014-15.

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Kicinski takes top honors in game

Northwest 2014 graduate Duke Kicinski earned the Defensive MVP honor Tuesday at the Texas Coaches Association all-star game.

Kicinski made four tackles, including two and half for losses, in the North team’s 13-7 win.

He was also credited with one-and-a-half sacks.

“It was a lot of fun and a good experience,” Kicinski said. “It was weird for an all-star game for the defense to be so good. Everyone was doing their job, and we played well as a team.

“It was easy for me. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to do. The linemen did a good job and made it easy on the linebackers to do their job.”

Kicinski, who is headed to West Texas A&M, was a stalwart on the Texans’ defense last year. The linebacker made 125 tackles, including 60 solo stops. He recorded three sacks, picked off three passes and caused a fumble.

He is hoping to get on the field this fall for West Texas A&M.

“I’ll have a chance to play. I’ll have to do good,” Kicinski said.

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McCann accepts honor

McCann accepts honor

The Texas Girls Coaches Association honored Northwest graduate Kellee McCann Friday morning at halftime of its 1A-3A all-star basketball game.

McCann earned the TGCA’s Class 5A cross country all-star award.

Top Honor

TOP HONOR – Northwest’s Kellee McCann accepted the TGCA’s 5A cross country all-star honor Friday in Arlington. Submitted photo

The 2014 Northwest graduate is on her way to run at Syracuse in the fall.

Last year at Northwest, she finished seventh in the 5A girls race at the University Interscholastic League cross country championships in Round Rock. She ran the 5K in 18 minutes and 28 seconds.

She won the 5A Region II race in Lubbock, after claiming the 4-5A title.

Over her career, she ran in the state cross country meet four times.

She also qualified for the state track meet twice – as freshman and junior. An injury kept her from competing at district and beyond in track this spring.

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Flying to title: Freier adds national title, Gatorade award to resume

Flying to title: Freier adds national title, Gatorade award to resume

Three-time state champion Desiree Freier became a national champion Sunday.

The 2014 Northwest graduate won the women’s pole vault at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Junior Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Freier cleared 14-1.25 to win the title. Bonnie Draxler was second, clearing 13-11.25.

Up and Over

UP AND OVER – Northwest’s Desiree Freier clears the bar at the UIL track and field championships in May on her way to a 5A state title. She won the USA Track and Field Outdoor Junior Championships in Oregon Sunday, clearing 14-1.25. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It was a good day,” Freier said via phone before flying home Monday. “They let us practice Friday and that helped. I cleared all my jumps on the first attempt until 14-1. I got it on the second try.”

Freier missed her three attempts at 14.5.

With the title, Freier reserved a spot on the USA team for the IAAF World Junior Championships July 22-27 on the same track in Oregon.

“It’s exciting. What makes it special is making the team for the world championships,” Freier said. “I’ll jump on my birthday.”

Freier won her third straight 5A title in the pole vault in May, clearing 13-6.

Earlier in the spring, she set the national outdoor and indoor high school records. She established the outdoor mark at the Texas Relays, clearing 14-3.25. Freier set the indoor record at 14-2.75 at the New Balance Indoor meet.

She cleared 14-6 at the Class 5A 4/5 Area Meet in Coppell in April.

Freier won every meet since the start of 2014. The University of Arkansas signee was named the Gatorade Texas Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

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Rue named regional Superintendent of the Year

Northwest ISD Superintendent Karen Rue received a thumbs-up from the school board last week when trustees voted unanimously to increase her salary by 3 percent.

Karen Rue

But the praise and recognition didn’t stop there.

Monday, the district announced its leader had been named the Education Service Center Region 11′s Superintendent of the Year.

“I am truly honored,” Rue said. “The NISD board of trustees is a visionary team. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a hardworking school board, dedicated staff members and talented students.

“I share this recognition with the students and staff in Northwest ISD – a district that believes in putting kids first.”

Rue was nominated by the NISD board for her strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance and commitment to public involvement in education.

Sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), the Superintendent of the Year program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership since 1984.

Rue is one of 20 regional winners across the state.

She has served as superintendent of schools in Northwest ISD since 2005 and is leading a transformational change in education at NISD and Texas to ensure all students are prepared for the digital age in which we live.

In her tenure at NISD, Dr. Rue has managed three successful bond elections and led district initiatives such as Community-Based Accountability, the expansion of NISD academies, development of the district’s Outdoor Learning Center and a student tablet and netbook deployment.

Currently, she is president-elect of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), is vice president of the South Central States for Urban Superintendents Association of America (USAA) and serves on the executive committee for the Texas School Coalition.

ESC Region 11 serves 77 school districts and 55 charter schools in north central Texas.

This was a unique year for the award because a record number of women superintendents were nominated. Of the 77 traditional school districts in the region, 11 have female superintendents at the helm (14 percent). For the first time, the majority of candidates for the Region 11 award were female (80 percent).

The state committee will interview regional winners in Austin on Aug. 22 and 23 and select five finalists.

The Superintendent of the Year will be announced Sept. 26 at the TASA/TASB Convention in Dallas.

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Northwest ISD approves budget, makes hires

Moments before approving its general fund budget for the 2014-2015 school year, the Northwest school board filled two positions created in this year’s plan.

Budgeted expenses total $164 million, while revenue is tabbed at $161 million.

The $2.75 million difference will be made up with money from the fund balance.

“I believe the budget presented is one that is thoughtfully deliberated and one that is specific to meeting the goals of our strategic plan,” said NISD Superintendent Karen Rue.

Earlier in the meeting, the board held a public hearing on the tax rate, proposed to remain at $1.425 per $100 valuation. Final approval is set for the board’s meeting in August.

General fund expenditures increased by $11,924,681 from this last school year, reflecting a projected enrollment increase of 1,092 students.

Most of the general fund budget is for personnel – salaries and benefits.

This year’s plan includes two newly created positions.

Jamie Farber

The board named Northwest High School’s lead counselor, Jamie Farber, the district’s director of counseling.

In the new role, Farber will direct, implement, supervise and evaluate all aspects of the districtwide counseling programs and related services.

“I am thrilled to welcome Jamie Farber in this new role and look forward to seeing her perform in this new capacity,” Rue said. “She is talented, dedicated and focused on serving our students, families, staff and communities.”

Farber has 19 years of experience in education. She has served as a counselor at NHS since 2007.

Before joining NISD, she was a counselor and teacher at Arlington ISD.

She earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Texas and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Farber was recognized as a semi-finalist for the American School Counselor of the Year this year; the Texas School Counselor Association Secondary/High School Counselor of the Year in 2012; and Educator of the Year for Communities in Schools of North Texas in 2012.

She is a member of the American Schoool Counselor Association, Texas Counseling Association and the Texas School Counselor Association.

She will begin her new duties in July.

“I am honored to fulfill the new role of director of counseling for Northwest ISD,” Farber said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with amazing counselors throughout the district and to be able to serve all of our students, campuses and communities.”

Kyle Seipp

The board also hired Kyle Seipp as its director of college and career readiness.

Seipp taught math and coached at Northwest High School from 2005 to 2010 before taking a job with the University of Texas in Austin at the Institute of Public School Initiatives.

At the institute, he worked with school districts to “achieve college readiness goals and instill fidelity of implementation of the design principles of early college high school while building capacity and enhancing productivity.”

In his new position, Seipp will oversee the development, implementation, assessment and continuous improvement of programs aimed at increasing student access to post-secondary education and employment opportunities.

“I am beyond excited to return to the best team in the nation,” Seipp said. “I look forward to enhancing opportunities for the students at NISD. Northwest made it possible for me to be able to excel in my position at the university, and I am excited to be back.”

Seipp earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Texas State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lamar University.

He also has principal and superintendent certificates.

Like Farber, he will start in July.

“Mr. Seipp brings his exceptional educational leadership to Northwest ISD,” Rue said. “We are excited to have him re-join the NISD team to serve the students as they prepare for their future.”

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Northwest ISD Superintendent Karen Rue receives raise

Like her employees, Northwest ISD Superintendent Karen Rue will receive a 3-percent salary increase in the next school year’s budget.

At their meeting Monday, trustees approved “revisions” to the superintendent’s contract, which included the raise.

“As we went through the evaluation process we commended Dr. Rue and very much appreciate the job she has done,” Trustee Mark Schluter said.

Trustee Mel Fuller added: “We appreciate you for always looking for ways to grow the district and move us forward.”

Her annual base salary is $258,708, effective July 1.

In January, the board extended her contract through June 2018

She joined the district in 2005.

“Thank you very much for your vote of confidence,” Rue told the board.

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Five teams picked for playoffs

Football fans in Decatur, Alvord, Boyd, Chico and Northwest can make their plans for the postseason according to polls in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

The annual football guide hit stands this past week and picked five of the county’s seven teams to earn playoff spots. Only Paradise and Bridgeport were not predicted to make the playoffs.

No area teams were in preseason rankings for the six classifications. The University Interscholastic League renamed the classifications for this fall with 5A becoming the new 6A. The old six-man or Class A Division II is now Class A. The other classes all moved up with the old 3A now being 4A.

The Decatur Eagles under new head coach Mike Fuller were picked third in the new 4-4A Division I behind Graham and Gainesville. Wichita Falls Hirschi was tabbed fourth, Burkburnett fifth and Mineral Wells last.

Fuller, who arrived in the spring from Colleyville Heritage to take over a Decatur team that went 9-4 and made the 3A Division I region semifinals, downplayed the predictions.

“I don’t put much stock in it,” he said. “We’ll show up each Friday night and compete.”

In 3-4A Division II, Bridgeport was picked sixth behind Celina, Bonham, Aubrey, Anna and Krum. The Bulls are coming off a winless campaign in 2013.

Under their new head coach Bill Poe, the Northwest Texans are picked fourth in 5-6A. State champion Denton Guyer is the choice to win the league followed by Keller Fossil Ridge and Denton Ryan. Byron Nelson is picked sixth in the eight-team district.

The Boyd Yellowjackets were picked second in 4-3A Division I behind Breckenridge. Bowie was tabbed third, Brock fourth, Ponder fifth and Paradise sixth. Boyd quarterback Clay Barnett was picked as the league’s preseason offensive MVP.

“Looking at the district, anyone can beat anyone,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “It’ll be such a competitive district. Anything can happen.”

In the 5-2A Division I, Alvord was tabbed to grab the district title behind preseason offensive MVP Joe Randall, who ran for 1,251 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Chico was picked second led by preseason defensive MVP Hagan Davis.

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Northwest School Board to consider OLC project

Work should soon begin on Northwest ISD’s outdoor classroom.

At its meeting Monday, the board will consider using the construction manager at-risk delivery method to administer planned improvements to the district’s Outdoor Learning Center.

In the 2012 capital bond program, the district allotted $10,000 for projects at the OLC.

The center is a 195-tract, formerly known as Texas Lil’s Dude Ranch, just outside Justin. It is used to create hands-on learning experiences for students, giving them opportunities to study water sources, erosion, wildlife, soil and grasses in a natural setting.

There is also an emptied pool-turned-archaelogical dig, flowers and shrubs planted by students and a pond-study station.

During the meeting, the board will also consider seeking requests for proposals for a real estate broker.

District officials believe the resurgence of housing developments within NISD warrants the need for such services. The broker would pursue school sites as directed by the district and would assist in negotiating, feasibility studies and the closing process.

The board will also:

  • review changes, reflecting the 3-percent pay raise approved at the last meeting, to the employee compensation handbook.
  • evaluate accepting gifts to the district in the form of bequests of money and property.
  • consider a memorandum of understanding with Communities in Schools of North Texas for the Back To School Fair.
  • hear reports from the school health advisory council and the employee wellness center.
  • discuss board policy updates, as outlined by the state.
  • consider extending contracts with Smith and Associates as the district’s employee benefit consultant; Bene-Marc for student insurance; O’Donnell’s Landscape Services for the district’s lawns and athletic fields; and Durham School Services for student transportation.

The meeting, which begins with a closed session at 6 p.m., will be held in the Northwest ISD Board Room, 2001 Texan Drive in Fort Worth. It is open to the public.

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Northwest ISD names principal for V.R. Eaton High School

A Rockwell ISD administrator will take over the reins of Northwest ISD’s third comprehensive high school.

Dr. Carri Eddy

At its meeting Tuesday, the school board named Dr. Carri Eddy principal of V.R. Eaton High School.

“It is my pleasure to recommend Dr. Carri Eddy … ,” said Northwest ISD Superintendent Karen Rue. “Dr. Eddy is highly thought of in her current school district, Rockwall ISD. She brings with her the knowledge of opening secondary campuses and insight on building a school culture and community. We are thrilled to welcome her to the NISD family.”

Currently Eddy is the director of secondary campus services in Rockwall ISD, where she has served since 2005 as principal of Utley Middle School and associate principal of Rockwall Heath High School.

Eddy has worked in Forney ISD and Mesquite ISD for nine years as a teacher, high school assistant principal, fine arts coordinator, registrar and safety officer.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to lead the students, staff, parents and Eaton High School community in developing the traditions that will make Eaton High School one of the best high schools in Texas,” Eddy said. “I cannot wait to meet the students who will fill the halls and learn about their individual talents and dreams.”

Eddy earned doctorate and master’s degrees in education administration from Texas A&M Commerce. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas-Arlington.

Eddy was named a ‘Top 5 Finalist’ for the HEB Excellence in Education Award for Secondary Principal of the Year in 2012-13.

EHS is named in memory of Wise County resident and rancher V.R. Eaton. He is the father of Messenger publisher Roy Eaton.

Eaton served as a member on the first Northwest ISD school board and assisted in the organization of the district’s consolidation.

The school will open in August 2015 with ninth and 10th grades only, totaling approximately 1,000 students.

A grade level will be added each year until EHS has ninth through 12th grades in the 2017-18 school year.

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Northwest School Board approves employee raises

Northwest ISD employees will get a raise next year.

At its meeting Tuesday, the school board approved a compensation plan that includes a 3-percent increase from the midpoint of each paygrade for the 2014-2015 school year.

The pay hike increases the budget by $3,231,000.

The change will increase the new hire pay scale by $1,650, establishing the starting salary for a new teacher at $50,150 for the 2014-15 school year.

Last year, trustees approved a 2-percent pay hike for its employees, including Superintendent Karen Rue.

Also at the meeting, the board restructured its own leadership in the wake of the May 10 elections. Board president is Josh Wright, vice president is Mark Schluter and secretary is Devonna Holland.

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Johnson signs to play basketball at Dartmouth

In his only season at Northwest, Taylor Johnson averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and hit 50 3-pointers, helping the Texans to the playoffs.

Johnson will now head to Dartmouth to continue his basketball career. The Wise County Newcomer of the Year was one of several Northwest athletes that confirmed their college pledges during the district’s May signing ceremony.

Johnson is one of three Texan basketball players to get a chance to continue their careers. Josh Tatum will play at Weatherford College, and David Ogunwolu at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin.

State-qualifying hurdler Kerry Gleason is heading to Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches. Gleason finished fourth in the 5A 110 hurdles at state, and sixth in the 300 hurdles.

Three other track athletes inked letters. Brittanie Anderson signed with Texas Wesleyan, Deserae Kirkland with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and Clarence Cordova with Southwestern Christian University.

Shelby Stinnett will play volleyball at Texas Wesleyan University.

Wrestler Eric Pacheco is headed to Lyon College.

Grayson County Community College picked up Victor DeJesus for its baseball program.

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District adds jobs

Northwest ISD plans to grow – then grow some more.

At its meeting Monday, district officials approved a second staffing request for the 2014-2015 school year.

“This second request is the result of further analysis of instructional programs as well as departmental needs for our fast-growth district,” Dr. Gary Gindt, assistant superintendent for administrative services, wrote in the cover sheet in the agenda packet. “[It] is designed to respond to current staffing needs while also establishing the foundation and structure necessary for a rapidly growing district.”

The plan adds:

  • five secretary positions;
  • a fifth girls coach and sixth boys coach at the middle school;
  • a maintenance technician for V.R. Eaton High School;
  • a painting technician;
  • a PEIMS clerk;
  • an irrigation technician;
  • a preventive maintenance technician;
  • a chief technology officer;
  • an administrative assistant to the chief technology officer;
  • a director of application software;
  • an outsourced operation manager;
  • a director of college and career readiness; and
  • a director of counseling.

The board also approved reclassifying a family involvement aide, a director of purchasing and a benefits specialist.

These changes will have a potential budget impact of $1,028,323.

In February, the board added 138 positions, including 11 for V.R. Eaton High School and 68 regular education teachers.

These additions increased the budget by almost $7 million.

District officials anticipate 1,146 new students when school opens next year.


The council also:

  • named Mary Seltzer principal of Lakeview Elementary School in Trophy Club and Ron Myers principal of Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club;
  • nominated superintendent Dr. Karen Rue for the Texas Association of School Boards Superintendent of the Year award;
  • added the following courses to the high school course selection guide: social media marketing and money matters (elective courses at Steele Accelerated High School); dual-credit courses including Learning Frameworks (at Steele AHS only), OnRamps Dual Enrollment Program, OnRamps Pre-calculus, OnRamps Statistics; and college prep math and English.
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    Gleason finishes 5th

    Northwest’s Kerry Gleason matched his personal best in the 110 hurdles in a tight race Saturday.

    Gleason ran a 14.33 to finish fifth in the 5A race at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships at Mike Myers Stadium.

    “I ran well,” Gleason said. “I matched my best time.”

    Chevis Armstead of DeSoto won the race in 13.82. Allen’s Grant Finney was third in 13.96.

    Gleason closed his night and high school career with a sixth-place finish in the 300 hurdles, running 38.27.

    “I didn’t run the time I wanted,” Gleason said. “It’s a whole different ballgame when you get down here.”

    Gleason is headed to Stephen F. Austin State University to run next year at the college level.

    Northwest’s 4×100 team of Saveion James, Chase Morrison, Reggie McDaniel and Jordan Muldrow ran 41.02 to finish fifth.

    The team came into the meet ranked second after their 41.18 that won the 5A Region I title.

    “We broke our record again,” Muldrow said. “They were fast. We weren’t expecting those times. We came in second and came out fifth.”

    Klein Oak won the title in 40.47. Killeen took second in 40.69.

    In the 5A 1600, Zack Kirkland finished eighth in 4:23.62. Kirkland, who is headed to the University of North Texas in the fall, was third through the first 100 meters but fell off the blazing pace set by Keller’s Austen Dalquist, who won the race in 4:07.53.

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    Freier flies to third gold medal

    Freier flies to third gold medal

    Northwest’s Desiree Freier cleared the bar only once Saturday – but that was enough to put her back on top of the medal stand.

    Freier claimed her third straight 5A pole vault gold medal at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin, clearing 13-6.

    Golden Conclusion

    GOLDEN CONCLUSION – Northwest’s Desiree Freier waves to the crowd after her final jump Wednesday in the Class 5A pole vault. She cleared 13-6 to win the gold medal for a third time. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

    “I feel really great,” she said. “I didn’t have the best day out there. I thought I’d go a little bit higher. But to get a third gold, which not many can do, I’m really proud.”

    No other vaulters topped 13 feet.

    Freier, who set the state meet record in 2013, clearing 13-9, entered the competition with the bar at 13-6. She missed her first attempt, clipping her chest on the bar.

    “I went through a lot of sticks today. I had a lot of adrenaline,” Freier said. “I was running really fast. I got all the way up to sticks that I’ve never used.”

    She easily sailed over the bar on the second attempt, landing on her feet on the mat.

    Freier moved the bar up to 14 feet but missed all three attempts at the height.

    “It wasn’t my best day but I still put up some good jumps,” Freier said. “I thought I had the bar. When I went up to new sticks it freaked me out. I messed myself up by gripping my hand 3 inches higher.”

    Along with being a three-time state champion and four-time medalist, Freier leaves Northwest as the national high school record holder for the pole vault, both outdoor and indoor. She set the outdoor record, clearing 14-3.25 at the Texas Relays in March at Mike Myers Stadium.

    Freier also cleared 14-6 at the area meet.

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    Kicinski grabs silver medal

    In his final high school meet, Duke Kicinski found the medal stand.

    The Northwest senior made a toss of 187-6 to bring home the silver medal in the 5A discus at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin.

    “I got one at regionals and one here,” Kicinski said. “It seems to be my color.”

    North Mesquite’s Aaron Akens won the gold medal with a throw of 188. Cedar Ridge’s Brian Peterson took third with a toss of 182-3.

    Kicinski landed three throws of 180 feet or more. His first toss went 178 and second 182-1 to put him in second place behind Peterson.

    On his third throw, Kicinski unleashed his toss of 187-6 to take over first place.

    “It’s what I’ve been doing in practice but not at meets,” Kicinski said. “I needed to come out to do it today, and I did.”

    The throw gave him the lead going into the final three attempts. Akens landed his winning throw to vault past Kicinski on his fourth throw.

    Kicinski is headed to West Texas A&M to play football in the fall. He was happy to close out his high school career with a medal.

    “It’s a great way to end it,” Kicinski said.

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    Defying gravity

    Defying gravity

    Sprinting down the ramp, Desiree Freier launches into space at the end of a fiberglass pole, defying gravity and capturing imaginations as she reaches to new heights.

    Desiree Freier

    Desiree Freier. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

    The two-time 5A state champion owns the American high school girls’ indoor and outdoor pole vault records of 14-2.75 and 14-3.25. At her area meet in April, she cleared 14-6 and added another medal to her extensive collection. But as the Northwest senior and four-time regional champion heads to Austin for the final vault of her high school career next week with a chance for a third gold medal, she’s on a single mission to raise the bar higher.

    ON THE RUN – Desiree Freier runs down the ramp at the Texan Invitational in March. The meet was a few weeks before she set the outdoor record at the Texas Relays. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

    “I never go for a medal,” Freier said. “I go for height and what’s the next bar I can clear.”

    That next mark to clear at Mike Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin is 14-9, which would break the outdoor record she set on the same track in March at the Texas Relays.

    “I’m really excited. I’ve had a routine where I’ve PR’d at every other meet since March,” Freier said. “I went 14 and then 14-3. Then 14 and then 14-6. At regionals, I went 14. At state, I want that PR.”

    Another record and medal would put an exclamation mark to a near-unapproachable career.

    “Desiree is a great competitor and hard worker,” said Northwest girls track coach George Lutkenhaus. “Any time you see someone reach that level, it’s really impressive.”

    Reaching New Heights

    REACHING NEW HEIGHTS – This spring Desiree Freier has cleared 14-3 and 14-6. She owns the indoor and outdoor high school records for pole vaulting. She hopes to clear 14-9 next week at state. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

    Freier started vaulting at 10 years old.

    “My stepdad owns a pole vaulting facility,” Freier explains as she points to the new facility in the family’s backyard. “I thought it’d be neat to try it. Not many people do it, and I kinda caught on to it.”

    ALONE AT THE TOP – Desiree Freier won gold at state in 2012 and ’13. She will try for a third gold next week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

    She had tried gymnastics but didn’t last long.

    “I tried gymnastics for three days but said this is too much of a perfectionist thing and I can’t do it,” Freier said.

    Gymnastics’ loss was track and field’s gain. She quickly became a student of vaulting, capitalizing on her ability with a relentless work ethic.

    “It takes passion, work ethic and the x-factor – God-given genetics,” said her coach and brother Devin Rodriguez. “She’s blessed to have it all.

    “You have to have the passion and desire. You can have the strength and speed and not go anywhere. You have to have that passion to work every day to be on top.”

    Freier herself said it takes three main characteristics to be a great vaulter – speed, strength and height.

    “I have two of the three. I lack the height, but I’ve got the other two,” the 5-foot Freier jokes.

    The lack of height is also what she claims led her to the sport.

    “I’m not very tall and always wanted to be a little bit taller,” Freier said. “By vaulting you can throw yourself up that much higher, and it makes you taller than everyone else.”

    Her brother quickly points out that height is overrated.

    “She doesn’t need the height. She’s proved that’s not a factor.”

    Rodriguez has coached her for three-and-half years and watched her gain more than two feet from her second-place finish as a freshman at state, when she went 12-3. He credits her consistency.

    “There’s not been a change. It’s consistency in her training and coaching. She’s always there practicing and working,” Rodriguez said.

    Going more than a story into the air at the end of pole, Freier is not scared. She’s only had a few crashes, one during a street vault where she landed with her neck and back. Her other crash came when a pole snapped in practice.

    “That wasn’t that scary. I just landed in the pit and said ‘What just happened?’”

    Ironically for the frequent flyer, she claims to be scared of heights.

    “I’m terrified,” Freier said. “I love roller coasters, but I scream like a baby when I go on them.

    “When you look down, what if you fell that far? It’s pretty scary to think about.”

    But falling from nearly 15 feet after letting go of the pole there is no fear.

    “You free fall, It’s breathless in a way,” Freier said. “It’s all really quick. I don’t know how to explain. In a vault it happens so fast. You don’t have time to think about.”

    In competition, she strives to win but Freier also praises her competitors and urges them on.

    “I try to be as friendly as possible,” she said. “I ask are you ready to PR? We’re all going to PR.”

    It’s part of returning the favor that Round Rock McNeil’s Kaitlin Petrillose did for her at the state meet Freier’s freshman year.

    “I was a nervous wreck,” Freier recalled. “Kaitlin calmed me down and told me it was just another meet.”

    Since then, vaulting has taken Freier around the world. She’s competed multiple times in New York this spring and last year she competed in the Ukraine.

    “That was a really cool experience,” Freier said. “I didn’t like the food. The food was gross. Their meat was just lamb, and I don’t like lamb. I got to meet Sergei Bubka, and I got to shake his hand. My brother got mad that I washed my hand.”

    After completing her high school career next week, Freier is headed to Arkansas, where she will join the perennial national championship contender.

    “I chose between UT and Arkansas,” she said. “I chose Arkansas because I felt more at home there. They have eight vaulters, just girls. They all felt like sisters.”

    While she is looking forward to competing at the next level. She also has her sights set on competing on the world stage, including a possible run at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. It’s not far-fetched for the vaulter who is ranked 11th in the United States among all female vaulters – professional, college and high school.

    “That’s weird. I still can’t make sense out of it that I’m that good. It’s not real to me,” Freier said. “I look at video and say I didn’t do that. There’s something else inside of me that is doing that. It’s not me.”

    But the goal of making to Rio is very real.

    “That’s my goal – 2016 in Rio,” she said. “If I can get up another foot then I should be good. That’s another two years.

    “I want to go to the Olympics.”

    Rodriguez agrees that it’s possible, pointing out that she is within three inches of making the U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships standards.

    Pros in the sport already know about Freier, sending her Tweets saying they are looking forward to competing with her in the future.

    As she closes out her high school career, Freier is proud of the legacy she will leave at Northwest. She hopes it will inspire other Texans.

    “Greatness can come from anywhere,” Freier said. “Anyone can be great as long as they work at it. It’s just a matter of how bad you want it.”

    Some can even defy gravity.

    Posted in Features, Sports0 Comments

    Guanlao ties for 5th place

    Northwest’s Aaron Guanlao posted a two-round total of 143 to finish tied for fifth at the 5A University Interscholastic League golf championships at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin.

    The Texan senior shot a 1-over-par 71 in the first round Monday. He followed that with a 72 on a windblown par 70 course Tuesday.

    Matthew Perrine of Austin Westlake won the event with a pair of 68s. Deer Park’s Michael Perras shot 68 and 72 and won a playoff against Southlake Carroll’s Mason Greenberg to take second.

    Westlake took the team title with a 575. Carroll finished second with a 579.

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