Four Aledo High School athletes in five events and the boys’ 4×100 relay team will compete in Austin on Friday seeking gold medals in respective events at the Class 5A State Track and Field meet.
All the events will be held at Mike Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Two boys – Graydon Morris and Zach Davis – are defending state champions. Morris is the defending boys’ state champion in both the boys’ 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs, and Davis is the boys’ state defending pole vault champion.
Morris, a junior, feels more comfortable in the longer of the two races.
“It will be nerve-racking down in Austin,” he said. “But I think I will be able to handle it pretty well. I feel more comfortable running the two-mile (3,200 meters) compared to the mile (1,600) because the mile is kind of outside of my wheelhouse.”
Bearcats head coach Robby Jones pointed out that Morris does not have the fastest times in both races this year, but that had to do with strategy at the windy regional meet in Lubbock.
“Graydon was not racing for time at the regional meet,” Jones said. “He was racing for placing; to make sure he got to state. He is a competitor and I expect him to repeat as a double state champion.”
Davis not only has his sights set on another gold medal, but also wants to return home as a record holder.
“I really want to get the school record (16-7), and by going to state I have one more shot at it,” Davis said. “I have gone 16-3 outdoors and 16-7 indoors, but the 16-7 wasn’t in a school meet so it doesn’t count as our school record.
“I love UT’s track – it is really fast – and there are a lot of people watching. It is a good environment.”
Jones said the boys’ pole vault field is crowded with competitors with the same regional mark as Davis’ 16-0.
“It is a crowded field, but I expect Zach to repeat,” Jones said. “He is such a fierce competitor and I feel the competition will bring out his best.”
The “veteran” of the state-qualifying group is senior Sierra White, who will be making her fourth consecutive appearance in girls’ pole vault at the state meet. White has yet to win at state.
“The goal this year is to win it,” she said. “I give all the credit to (Aledo part time assistant track) Coach (John) Rhodes. If I had not had him as a coach I do not think I would be at this point. He knows exactly what we need to do to adjust and he communicates that well.
“He lays it down straight and it’s easy to make the proper adjustments. My confidence is pretty good, and I love the pressure and the adrenaline that comes with competing at state.”
After missing almost a year and a half of competition due to a foot injury, junior Gracie Morris has had a great season, winning the district, area and regional meets in the girls’ 1,600-meter run. Because of her recovery plan, Morris has opted to just run the 1,600 in school competition this spring.
“It feels good to win this race, especially coming off my foot injury (stress fracture in a foot bone) that kept me out of competition for a year and a half,” Morris said following the regional meet. “It was really tough (to come back) and I am still struggling.
“I am really excited for the state meet, and there will be some tough competition this year at state. There will be about five girls who have a chance to win it. I am looking forward to it.”
Ladycats head coach Mike Pinkerton likes the chances of both Gracie Morris and White.
“Sierra and Gracie did a fantastic job at the regional meet, both placing first in their respective events,” he said. “The competition at state will be tough. Based on times/heights from the regional meets, neither Sierra or Gracie are currently the favorites (one 13’ vault, and a 5:04 and 5:05 in the 1600m).
“However, each did what they had to do at regionals to win and qualify – they both have a lot left in the tank.”
Pinkerton pointed out how huge an accomplishment it is for White to qualify for state in each of her high school years. He also commented on his mile runner.
“It is very difficult to qualify for state four years in a row in the same event,” he said. “There are so many things that can happen – injuries, re-alignments, etc. It is truly a significant accomplishment for Sierra – so very proud of her and what she has been able to accomplish.
“I am extremely proud of Gracie as well. For her to be out over a year due to injury, then come back and win regionals is truly amazing.”
Jones feels his boys 4×100 relay team of Money Parks, DeMarco Roberts, BJ Allen and Jase McClellan are peaking at the right time. The quartet set a school record at the regional meet with a time of 41.54, breaking the old mark of 41.85.
“We have the seventh fastest time (in the nine-team race) of all the state-qualifying 4×100 teams,” Jones said. “But these guys rebounded from the area meet (where they ran a 42.26) with a school record at the regional meet.
“They love to compete, and anything is possible at the state meet. They will run in Lane 9, which has its drawbacks. Our guys love to chase, but being out that far may make it a little bit more difficult. But the positive side to running in Lane 9 is the curves aren’t as tight, which will be an advantage.”
Aledo state track schedule
8 a.m. – girls’ pole vault – Sierra White
9:40 a.m. – boys’ 3200-meter run – Graydon Morris
1 p.m. – boys’ pole vault – Zach Davis
5:30 p.m. – boys’ 4×100 relay – (Money Parks, DeMarco Roberts, BJ Allen, Jase McClellan)
9:55 p.m. – girls’ 1600-meter run – Gracie Morris
9:55 p.m. – boys’ 1600-meter run – Graydon Morris