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Texas Relays was back and in full effect this weekend in Austin.
The high school divisions of the meet have been absent for the last two seasons because of the 2020 COVID cancellation of the meet and the scaled down 2021 version of the meet where the high school divisions were omitted. Not only were the high school events back this year, but they were back to elevate the meet to the highest level of competition there is in our sport.
Many high schools and individual athletes throughout the state were competing, but also many of the top high school programs in the country traveled to Austin take on the Lone Star State schools.
This weekend, we saw national records fall and some of the top marks nationally set. Here are some of the big time performances from this weekend's action at the Texas Relays
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Girls and Boys Steeplechase
Margaret Thompson (Hockaday) hung around the lead in the steeplechase for the entire race and then charged her way to the win with her fastest lap being her final lap. The Hockaday sophomore finished with at 1:23.83 for the last lap to overcome fellow sophomore class and Dallas area runner Sara Morefield (Lucas Lovejoy).
Morefield led for most of the second half of the race only to relinquish the lead to Thompson who won the 2,000m steeplechase by a narrow margin of 7:03.28 to 7:03.68.
In the boys race, it was Luke Brooker (Houston Homeschool) who used a similar race strategy as the girl's winner, Thompson. Brooker hung around the lead and used a consistent race of 1:20 second middle three laps to stay in contention.
Kellen Frickel (Round Rock Cedar Ridge) led the race nearly from start to finish, only to succumb the lead to Brooker on the last lap. Brooker produced the second fastest lap of the race to take the win in 6:12.93 to Frickel's 6:14.18. Todd Worth (San Antonio Antonian Prep) ran the fastest lap of the race on his last lap to pull within .01 of a second of a runner-up finish with his 6:12.19.
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Girls 100 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles
There was a showdown of the top 100 meter hurdlers in the state. Simone Ballard (Katy Mayde Creek) has been running the state in just about every event she lined up for this season. Jaiya Covington (Aldine Eisenhower) is also having an awesome senior season in her own rights. Ballard ran a 13.65 to qualify for the finals and Covington 13.78 into a headwind to qualify.
In the finals, there were seven girls run sub 14.00. Ballard ran a 13.28 (+3.8) to get the win and finishing ahead of Covington who was second in 13.55 and Makeriah Harris in 13.58 for third.
Ballard also got on the good foot in the 300 meter hurdles, and she did in it dramatic fashion.
Ballard was in a showdown with Makeriah Harris (Scotlandville), the sophomore from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Sidney Green (Allen), but the Baylor commit had the type of performance we mentioned she would need to be in Player of the Year contention.
Ballard won the competition with her 40.68 taking down Harris, who was the national leader coming into the weekend. Her time is good enough for the fastest all-time by a Texas, faster than Samantha Gonzalez (40.81 -2015) (Carrollton Creekview). Although Harris is now ranked No. 2 nationally, she has a sub. 41 second race on her resume.
Not to be overlooked is Green, who also ran blazingly fast. Her third place time 40.82 is the TX No. 3 All-Time 300H performance. A total of si girls ran under 44.0.
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Boys 110 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles
The Texas high school boys hurdle events are extremely deep as well as good and the Texas Relays boys 110 hurdles were an example of that. Now add the outstanding out of state hurdlers and the explosion in Austin was in those hurdle events.
The field was so outstanding that Texas' top hurdler didn't even make it into the nine person final. Shane Gardner (George Ranch) ran in preliminary heat six and won with a time of 14.40, well off his 13.69 SB. That was partly due to his heat being the only heat to run into a head wind. The wind during the hurdles prelims was up to a 2.4 tail wind, but for Gardner's heat, it was a -2.76 head wind.
To qualify for the finals, boys had to run 14.33 and under. Five boys ran under 14.0, led by Stockton, California senior Jadyn Marshall and his 13.49.
In the finals, junior Matthew Tyeskie (Kilgore) ran a superb 13.97 in the Division I boys hurdle race for the win. That was prior the Division II boys where seven other boys dipped under 14:0 with a 2.2 wind reading.
The boys 300 meter hurdles were also extremely fast. Only one person in the country had run under 37.0 before this weekend. At the Texas Relays, six boys ran faster including five Texas boys.
UIL 5A defending champion Smallwood ran a US No. 2 36.32 time to win the meet just ahead of UIL 5A runner-up in the event Kody Blackwood (McKinney North) who ran a 36.51 PR. Also running sub 37.0 were Grant Williams (Celina) - 36.68, Marshall - 36.73, Alex Ornelas (Langham Creek), and Donovan Bradley (Summer Creek) - 36.82.
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Girls and Boys Pole Vault
Texas' best vaulters jumped this weekend at the Texas Relays, so did the nation's best. . . . the best ever high school vaulter, actually. Amanda Moll (Olympia Capital HS) of Washington state broke the pole vault national record with her 14-9.5 jump.
She cleared 13-11.25 on her first jump to secure the competition win and then moved the bar up to 14-5.25 and cleared it on her third and final attempt before clearing the national record height. She attempted 15-1, but was unsuccessful.
Molly Haywood (Tomball Memorial) entered the competition at 12-9 and cleared it, 13-3.5 and 13-7.25 all on her first attempts at each height to earn her second place overall. She missed all three attempts at 13-11.25. Also clearing 13-7.25 was UIL 6A defending state champion Emily Fitzsimmons (Austin Lake Travis), UIL 6A runner-up last year, Skyler Schuller (Coppell), and Quinn Calhoun (Cypress Woods).
In the boy's pole vault, Maddox Hamm (Scottsboro) took the win in 17-2.75. Hamm, the Alabama junior came in when more than half of the competitors were already out of the competition at 16-10.75. His attempt at 17-2.75 wasn't much of a challenge for Hamm as he cleared on his first attempt and had three good tries at 17-6.5, but to no avail.
Defending UIL 6A state champ Jack Mann (Austin Lake Travis) cleared 16-10.75 on his first attempt and had some good attempts at 17-2.75 and his Lake Travis teammate Sergio Rivas finished third with his 16-6.75 clearance.
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Girls and Boys 1,600m
Without Natalie Cook and Isabel Conde De Frankenberg, the girls 1,600m wouldn't be as exciting and elite as could be, right? Think again. Kat Kwiatkowski, Anastacia Gonzales were both entered and both had already run sub 4:547 entering the meet.
Six girls would run sub 5:00 this weekend led by Samantha Humphries (Flower Mound) and Gonzales. Humphries was just a week removed from her outstanding 16:50.21 runner-up finish in the Texas Distance Festival 5,000m. This week, she would get the win and did so by running a US No. 4 mark and PR of 4:44.90. Gonzales was second in 4:47.66 and Nicole Humphries finished third in 4:49.73 to improve on her 4:50.30 from last week at the Texas Distance Festival.
A lot of boys in Texas are fast in the distance events. Now, we can say some of them are running elite level fast this season. Christopher Riley (Austin McCallum) and Emmanuel Galdino (Houston Stratford) are the next set of boys to dip under 4:10, making it three this season with Walker St. John's 4:09.24 clocking at the Lovejoy Spring Distance Festival.
Riley ran 4:05.78 for the win and did it on his future home track the break the meet record of 4:06.29 by Leo Manzano (Marble Falls). The University of Texas signee will stay in Austin to compete in college and he gave his future teammates and coaches a glimpse of what they're getting with him. Galdino, the Iowa State commit was able to improve on his 4:16.83 personal best in the event, lowering it to 4:08.10.
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Boys Sprint Medley
The Boys Sprint Medley was a very fast event this weekend with four teams running 3:25 and faster, but winner Summer Creek took the cake with their 3:19.87 winning time. In fact, they shattered the meet record that was 3:23.44 by fellow Humble ISD member Kingwood in 2012 and are now the US No. 2 All-Time behind the 2009 New Bern (NC) 3:19.58.
After two outstanding 200m legs put the Bulldogs in a good position, they followed up with a 46 mid 400m split and then a 1:49 split on the 800m leg to close out in their Texas Relays record time. Converse Judson finished second in 3:26.93, Long Beach Poly was third in 3:25.05, and Long Beach Wilson was fourth in 3:25.42.
Summer Creek was so impressive, when you look at the college men's division race you can see how competitive they would have been in that race. Texas won the collegiate race in 3:14, but the runner-up time was 3:18.03, just 1.84 seconds ahead of Summer Creek. They would have finished right behind Texas A&M's 3:18.71 and ahead of Kansas' 3:19.71.
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Girls and Boys Long Jump
Makayla Watson (Keller Timber Creek) led three girls to jumps over 19-0 feet. Her 19-2.50 on her last jump propelled her from ninth place to the win. Taylor Nunez (University City Randolph) was one of only two freshmen to compete in the long jump and she nearly took the win. Her 19-1.75 jump earned her the second place finish and Kayla Watson (Prosper) who was also over 19 feet with her 19-0.75 was good enough for third place overall.
The boys long jump competition was perhaps one of the more anticipated events heading into the meet. Aaron Davis (Summer Creek) entered the weekend as the nation's top long jumper with his 25-2.25 all conditions best jump. He would take on the UIL 6A defending state champion in Ashton Torns (Austin Westlake) and the third place finisher from last year in Jayden Keys (Katy Tompkins).
Davis put the pressure on the field from the jump (pun intended). He was fortunate to get six jumps either with no wind or with slight tailwinds (all legal) and his first jump was his best jump of the competition 24-0.25. It was good enough to last as he wouldn't get any further, but he wouldn't need to.
Torns, who just finished runner-up at last week's New Balance Nationals Indoor Championships would get a repeat finishing position this weekend. He scratched his first two jumps and then didn't get but one non-head wind jump. A 23-8.75 would be his best jump of the competition.
Keys' day was the complete opposite of Davis'; Davis was good early and Keys wasn't good until late. His experience from last year's state meet was key as he was in seventh place with his best jump being 22-9 until the sixth and final jump. That's when he would pop a 23-6.75 to catapult him up the standing and into third place.
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Girls And Boys Distance Medley Relays
Avery Mazzei gave Jenks an early lead after the 1,200m leg as she dropped a 3:42.62 split. Prosper would come back using a 54.51 split from Lauren Lewis to take a two second lead, but Jenks would take back the lead with a 2:19.87 on the 800m lead, going ahead buy five seconds.
It was no surprise that the Grapevine boys would win this event with the way they have run all year long. The back-to-back UIL 5A boys cross country champions got a solid 3:08.41 1200m leg to put them in good position. They would get a 4:13 split on the 1,600m anchor leg to pull off the win.
Austin McCallum and Austin Vandegrift got huge anchor legs to finish second and third overall. Christopher Riley who won broke the Texas Relays 1,600m record with a 4:05 ran a 4:08.76 split to come back from eight place to a runner-up finish. Kevin Sanchez also brought Vandegrift up six spots on his leg with a 4:10.59 split.
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Even though, there are a couple of sub 9:00 performances this season and a ton of sub 9:15 already this season, the Texas boys have yet to run up to their potential, but they're getting there.
Walker St. John (Grapevine) would get the Texas Relays win with the top Texas time of the season in 8:57.77, using a blistering 57.36 final 400m to secure the win by nearly five seconds.
The race was much closer than the final results would reflect. Sahil Dodda (Dallas St. Marks) would carry the pacing duties through the first 1,200m of the race and Kevin Sanchez (Austin Vandegrift) would bring the race through the midway point at 4:36.53. There were 11 boys who came through the 1,600m mark within Sanchez' pace when Emmanuel Sgouros (Houston St. Johns) began to take over the pace escalating it with a 2:17 over the next 800m where only Sanchez, Dodda, St. John, Josue Granados (Grapevine), and Hector Solis (PSJA North) were still in the mix. With only one lap to go when St. John took off, only he Sgouros, Sanchez, and Granados were left.
Seven total boys ran 9:10 and under.
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More Notable Girls Performances
- Girls triple Jump - Jade Johnson (Summer Creek) - With a 42-3.50, she led eight girls with jumps over 40 feet
- Girls 4x100 relay - Katy Seven Lakes - 45.78 US No. 3
- Girls 4x200 relay - Katy Seven Lakes - 1:35.81 US No. 1
- Girls 4x400 relay - Lancaster - 3:45.64 - US No. 1, Duncanville - 3:47.73 US - No. 3
- Girls 4x800 relay - Flower Mound - 8:57.39 US. No. 1
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More Notable Boys Performances
- Boys discus - Cristion Davis (Austin Vandegrift) - 190-7 - US. No. 3
- Boys 4x400 relay - Summer Creek - 3:09.92 - US No. 1
- Boys 4x800 relay - Katy Cinco Ranch - 7:48.84 - US. No. 2