Photo of Freddie Dubose at the 2023 UIL 5A State Meet
The 400m should be a loaded event this year with many of the top runners returning from last year. There are numerous returning State qualifiers including four girls who competed in the Region IV-6A final.
Last year, I mentioned Harlan's Elijah Hernandez in my preview, not realizing he was at Sotomayor. Well, I will not be making that mistake this year as Hernandez is easily the top dog after running 48.01 and finishing sixth in the State. Hernandez should be one of the top overall runners in all of San Antonio since he also ranks near the top of the list in the 800m.
There are a total of six returners who broke 51 seconds last year including a trio of runners from New Braunfels: Jakob Gilbreth, Logan Rosas and Lance Beeghley. Gilbreth ran a 49.60 to make it to the Regional finals. The Unicorns 4x400m relay finished third in the Region and should be one of the favorites this year. East Central's Rico Carpenter is the #2 returner after runner 49.54 in 2023 while Carnell Weatherspoon (Reagan) rounds out the top-5. All the top-10 returners have run at least 51.48 or better.
Reagan's Mackenzie Dagrosa was the Wild Card qualifier for the State meet last year after running 55.44 at the Regional meet. She narrowly edges out Brennan's Caila Lyons as the top returning runner. Dagrosa and Lyons are both outstanding 400m runners, but each is actually a State medalist in another event, Dagrosa in the high jump and Lyons in the 800m.
Lyons leads a strong contingent of 400m runners from District 29-6A that features five girls who broke 60 seconds last year. It is quite possible that to advance out of the District meet this year that a runner with have to break 58 seconds! Shyniece Davis (Jay) and Iyanna Dixon (Sotomayor) have already broken 58 seconds while Skyla Lovett (Stevens) and Alma Lazo Cazares (O'Connor) are each well on their way to accomplishing the same feat. On the other side of the city, Judson features a pair of returning runners who have run faster than 60 seconds, Jenesis Cordero and Kinsey Jackson.
One of the most amazing stories from last year was Smithson Valley's Freddie Dubose returning from an ACL surgery during the football season to finishing the year by medaling at the State meet with a time of 48.68, just off his best time of the year, a 48.28 at the District 26-5A meet. He returns as the top 5A runner and will challenge Elijah Hernandez for the title of top quarter-miler in San Antonio.
The top four returners are all excellent football players. Juniors Kevon Carter of Wagner and Michael Terry of Alamo Heights were both Regional finalists. Carter ran his best time of the year in the Regional prelims, 49.29 while Terry had a season best of 50.22. Sandwiched between the two heading into the Spring is JaKwon Downing (Veterans Memorial) who posted a season best of 49.51. Smithson Valley is the only school with more than one runner in the top-10 with Gavin Kantorak joining Dubose on the list.
Smithson Valley's Jazmyn Singh has been the "400m Queen" of San Antonio the last three years and should continue her reign as a senior. She owns 5A and 6A Regional titles in her career and is a three-time State qualifier in the event. She has run faster than 55 seconds in every season and will likely be the favorite to win another Regional title this year.
There are three other girls who broke 60 seconds last year: Brittney Snow (Canyon), Mia Perez (Smithson Valley) and Trinity Pinto (Medina Valley). Perez is a special case because she will likely continue to focus on the 800m and 1600m. Even though she has the #2 returning time, Snow did not make it to Regionals in the event. Pinto was the top freshman in the area last year with a top time of 59.92. Pinto, Elaya Walker (Highlands) and Ella Sutherland (Alamo Heights) all qualified for Regionals but missed out on the finals. With five seniors in last year's final, the trio should all push for a spot this year. Medina Valley, Smithson Valley and Wagner each have a pair of runners in the top-10.
Despite his season ending in March last year, Pleasanton's Jayden Palacios enters the season as the clear-cut favorite since he is a two-time State medalist in the event with a personal record time of 48.56. After Palacios, it is anyone's guess as to who is #2 in 4A this year with six other runners who have run between 51.0 and 52.0s.
The 4A boys are dominated by a few schools. La Vernia has three runners in the top-10 and are led by stud wide receiver Colton Schmid who ran 51.53 and Carson Sandoval who ran 51.92 as a freshman last year. Davenport boasts Jaylin Morrow (51.00) and Cal Taylor (51.21) who slot in at #2 and #3, respectively. Both are also outstanding half-milers. Fredericksburg also has a pair of runners in the top-10 with Ethan Lozano, a Regional qualifier, and Derek Adams, a strong 800m runner.
Fredericksburg has three of the top-5 returning quarter-milers with Ava Stuewe leading the way as the top returner in the area. Recent University of Houston commit Ann Claire Cop and Taylor Grona slot in at #4 and #5, but each will likely be running other events during championship season. However, the Fredericksburg 4x400m relay figures to be one to contend with all season long.
Canyon Lake's Ayren Lightfoot finished right behind Stuewe at the Regional finals and both will be in contention for a State berth. Lightfoot had a top time of 58.86. Rounding out the top-5 is Boerne's Savannah Seibert who just missed breaking 60 seconds last year with a time of 1:00.37.
the 3A boys it appears to be Braylen Brown (Randolph) and everyone else. Brown
is the only returner who broke 53 seconds last year, something he did four times
with a season best of 51.51. He has two other teammates in the top-10, Messiah
Miller (53.62) and Kai Evans (53.97).
Great Hearts Northern Oaks and Jourdanton each have multiple runners in the top group. Joshua Cornelius, the top high jumper in the area, leads the Griffins in the 400m as well thanks to his time of 53.88. William Siller and Isai Moran will give GHNO a good 4x400m relay team although it is unlikely that Moran will run the open 400m since he is maybe the best distance runner in the area. Jourdanton is home to Timothy Miller and Dillon Miller Jourdanton who will each be top competitors.
The top 400m runner is Randolph's Taylor Nunez who ran the event one time last year and blasted a 55.80. However, she has generally run the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay at meets which means that her teammate, Jaela Smith, is the top returner after qualifying for the State meet and is the only other 3A runner in the area to break 60s last year.
Dilley's Chloe Rodriguez and Lytle's Calyssa Sevier will be hot on the trail of Smith and each made the Regional finals last year. After the top three runners, the quality drops off a little bit but Randolph has two more girls in the mix, Grace Kistler and Lily Pifer while Great Hearts Northern Oaks also has two solid runners, Hannah Newton and Madison Mendez.
Private and Homeschool Boys
I am combining the private schools, smaller public schools and home school athletes into one group. There is a strong group of boys this year and all of the top five returners broke 51 seconds last year. The pick for the top 400m runner this year is Andrew Wright of Lutheran who ran 50.17 during the high school season and then went under 50s during the summer as a freshman. Three of the other top contenders are also outstanding half-milers.
Kirk Gillispie (Universal City First Baptist Academy) ran 50.16 and was a TAPPS State Champion and he took third in the 800m. Antonian's Todd Worth is one of the top distance runners in San Antonio regardless of classification after winning State titles in the 800m and 1600m, but in the summer he focused on the 400m and 49.38 at an AAU Regional Qualifier. Worth's teammate, Mason Wokoma, finished in the top four in TAPPS 6A in both the 400m and 800m.
Photo of Elaina Craven at the 2023 TAPPS State Meet
Private and Homeschool Girls
Maeve Sullivan of John Paul II had a great cross country season and finished sixth in the State, but she is a straight 400m runner during the track season and is the top returning private school girl. Last year, she ran 1:00.06 and finished fourth in the State after winning State the previous year in a slower time.
Antonian has a pair of runners to keep an eye on in Kayla Radtke and Serenity Menchaca who are both excellent in the 400m and 800m. Another name to follow is Fredericksburg Heritage's Elaina Craven who does a little bit of everything, but was also the State runner-up in the 400m.
* Please note that all times are taken from the MileSplit website. There is always a possibility that someone I mentioned no longer competes for the school they did last year or that they are even competing in track and field anymore. These articles are just a very early preview of the upcoming season.