The UIL 5A distance races have been very entertaining and the conference also has some of the top runners in the state. This weekend, we were supposed to see who would shine bright under the Mike A. Myers Stadium bright lights.
The girls race had the Texas distance queen, London Culbreath of McKinney North going for an unprecedented quadruple double-double. Although it's not as tough and extensive of a gymnastic routine as it sounds, it is still a tough accomplishment she was going for; one that had never been accomplished in 5A or 6A.
Culbreath has won both the 1600m and the 3200m state titles all three years of her high school career. She was the UIL state meet record holder in the 3200m until Brynn Brown broke it last year and she still holds the 5A state record. Culbreath dominated Texas throughout her years and especially the 5A conference since day one, however this year's state titles weren't guaranteed.
Frisco Reedy junior Colleen Stegmann has been a 5A All-State performer as well since the day she started competing at Reedy. Last Spring, her development continued to rise along with her performances and accolades. She was able to finish in close second place finishes to Culbreath in both the 1600m and the 3200m.
This Fall, she was able to make the jump to the top; not only was she able to win the individual 5A state championship, she made her arrival to the national level by qualifying for the NXN Championships. This weekend in Austin, we would have seen the state meet episode II of the Culbreath/Stegmann series.
Then there is the new kid on the block. Lucas Lovejoy freshman Amy Morefield came onto the 5A distance scene in the cross country season. She was third at the state meet and then fifth at NXR South to qualify for NXN to compete against the best distance girls in the nation. This season could have been the opportunity to possibly take the 5A distance torch.
They say opportunities come once in a lifetime. But 2020 was the last opportunity for some, the first for others, yet still the next opportunity for many 5A track and field athletes. But, for Gracie Morris, it would have been the perfect opportunity.
Morris came in early, young, and with guns blazing like Culbreath. She was one of the top runners in the state until injury cost her opportunities. However, although last year's championship was her first couple of months of competing in 18 months she still managed to make it to the state meet. The runner from Aledo qualified in the 1600m and placed fifth in a SB 5:03.85. This season would have been a year back to running for Morris. It would have been the perfect chance for the Texas signee to get back to where she let off and compete with 5A's best on the track.
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Like with the girls, the boys distance events were again supposed to see some outstanding running. Throughout his career, Graydon Morris has been the poster boy for consistency. He won three cross country state championships and five on the track including last year's 1600m and finishing second in the 3200m. Morris has also had just as big of an impact on the national stage. He was going for his sixth and seventh state titles this weekend before he would have closed the books on his high school career.
Texarkana Texas High senior Owen Likins has been on fire. The 800m runner-up from last year was the top returner from last year and was also fourth place in the 1600m. Likins could have been shooting for two titles himself; he would have faced the toughest of competition in two of the best Texas distance runners. He would have had a show down with Morris in the 1600m and Michael Abeyta in the 800m.
Abeyta is another senior who has been a key figure for the 5A distance runners over the last couple of years. He has had several classic battles with Morris over the years. The two have literally run toe to toe for much of their careers. Abeyta has two individual state titles, one in the 800m and one in the 1600m. This weekend would have been the final chapter of his high school career and the last chance for him to reclaim his throne in his best track events.
Lovejoy senior Will Muirhead has been a mainstay at the UIL 5A state meet. Over the last two years, he has placed sixth in the 1600m and seventh in the 3200m. the Oklahoma State signee would have had the opportunity to press for a podium spot.
Like many of the names in this article, Kaufman senior Christian Rivera hasn't missed one state meet. He has proven his ability and talent. Like Muirhead, this was his opportunity to break through and earn his first medal during the track season and a classic way to close out his high school career.
The UIL state meet was scheduled to bet getting started tonight. The distance races were going to provide some of the best highlights of the meet.