One day after the 2009 senior class walks across the stage at the Potter’s House to complete high school graduation, several Waxahachie seniors will step onto possibly an even bigger stage – the 2009 State Track and Field Championships.
Due to the swine flu (H1N1) virus UIL suspended all high school sports for nearly two weeks to begin the month of May. The suspension of play pushed back all postseason play including the state track meet.
The state meet will be held on Friday and Saturday, June 5-6, on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
All of the Class 4A events will be held on Friday and Waxahachie will be represented in four events, the shot put, high jump, 4x100 meter relay and the 4x200 meter relay.
Both relay teams are paced by seniors Davion Donalson and Ramoderick Waters while senior Arxavier Boyd is a member of the 4x100 meter team.
Nearly 24 hours after they graduate, the seniors will take the track in Austin in their final high school event.
The 4x100 meter relay team of Boyd, Donalson, Sam Gagliano and Waters is scheduled to begin their race at 6:10 p.m.
If one of the members of the team is injured or unable to race, junior Venique Benton is the team’s alternate.
“It feels pretty good to advance to state,” Benton said. “I helped the team make it to state when we was running at regionals. I hope no one gets hurt but if something happens I will be ready to get in there and do my job, either way I just hope we win state.”
The trip to the state meet is the first trip to any state competition for all three seniors.
“I have never been to state in any sport and never have been in the spot light for anything,” Boyd said. “It feels good to have the opportunity to show what we can do as a team.”
Waxahachie’s fate in the 4x100 meter relay begins with Boyd.
The Lon Morris College recruit for his talents on the football field, Boyd is the first leg of the relay team and all eyes will be on the senior with the start of the race.
Waxahachie enters the 4x100 meter relay as the fastest Class 4A team in the state. According to athletic.net the Indians are the third fastest team in the entire state of Texas in any classification and the eighth fastest team nationwide.
By crossing the line with a time of 41.13 at the Class 4A Region II meet in Denton the Indians are the top team heading into the race.
Teams that will chase the Indians around the track in Austin will be Hutto, Angleton, Houston North Forest, Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Big Spring, Killeen and Lancaster.
“We have good coaching, we work hard and don’t slack off. We have got the genes, but it’s our hard work that makes the difference,” Boyd said. “We really do not worry about anyone else. We know if we go out there and do what we do then everything else will take care of itself.”
The confidence by the senior is a confidence held by the entire team, a team that considers themselves family.
“We are a family. We all really want to be a big part of bringing back a state championship,” Donalson said.
All five members of the 4x100 relay team said they do not feel any added pressure entering the meet as the favorite.
“We were the fastest team at regionals and we did what we had to do to win,” Waters said. “We don’t want to run under pressure because the more pressure you run under the worse you run. We don’t think about having the top time we just run our race.”
Water said the team must stay focused on the race and take things one-step at a time.
“We have to make sure we are all on the same page and try not to get ahead of ourselves. We have to focus on the race and finishing it, hopefully then we will set a new record,” Waters said.
Once the 4x100 is complete, Waters, Donalson and Gagliano will have about an hour to rest before the 4x200 meter relay begins at 7:35 p.m.
Waxahachie’s 4x200 meter relay team is ranked sixth in the state and 11th in the nation with a time of 87.22 according to athletic.net.
The fourth member of the 4x200 meter relay team is junior LaJordan Easley.
“This is my first time going to state and hopefully we can win state,” Easley said. “It is my first time to advance to state in anything and it feels real good.”
Easley said he plans to “show out” in his leg of the race as he competes against teams from Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Hutto, Beaumont Central, Houston North Forest, Texas High, Cibolo Steele and Arlington Sequin.
“I do not feel any added pressure going into the meet,” Gagliano said. “We joke around a lot in practice but we are fast and were get after it everyday. I expect to win.”
Running a relay race requires a lot of focus, determination and trust in your teammates.
“It take an intense amount of focus to run a relay,” Gagliano said. “The biggest part of that focus is watching and making sure that guy hits your mark to where you need to go. Once he hits that mark, boom, you are out of your stance and going full speed as fast as you can.”
Donalson said being on a relay team is more work than it looks like. He said you have got to get the steps, the timing right and have a connection with your team.
“After I graduate I want them to advance to state again next year and fill the same shoes,” Water said. “If they can do better that we can, great, I just want them to help put Waxahachie on the map.”
After finishing second at regionals by one-inch, Waxahachie junior Keenan Sherwood has added motivation going into the state meet.
“I think I have a very good chance to win state. It feels like I barely lost at regionals and it makes me mad,” he said.
Sherwood’s best jump of the season was 6-foot-8 but at the regional meet he cleared 6-foot-6 while Henderson’s Hunter Skelton claimed regional gold with a jump of 6-foot-7.
The high jump is the first event a Waxahachie athlete will compete in on June 5. Jumping is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. with eight jumper competing in Class 4A.
In his first trip to a state competition, Sherwood has been busy preparing for the meet with a lot of various drill work.
He said he feels no pressure entering the meet, and hopes to finish high enough that the Indians can bring home the all-around team state championship.
“We have a chance to win state as a team if we win both relays and we medal in the high jump. Last year 44 points won it so we have a chance,” Waxahachie track coach Willie Rash said. “It is not a fluke they are going down there. I am proud of them and they have earned their spot down there so hopefully we will bring something back, something to remember.”
Rash has coached all the boys who will compete at state their entire high school careers and said this is a special group with a lot of God-given talent.
He believes this year may best the best chance the Indians have had in a couple of year to bring home some hardware from the state meet.
“I have been with most of them for four years and they have improved a lot. They are very deserving. Every group is special, this group is a bunch of great that works hard,” Rash said.”
Waxahachie’s only female athlete who will take part in the state meet is Sophomore Brittanya Sterns.
Sterns, the school recorder holder in the shot put, has improved in each meet this season. At the regional meet she set the school record with a throw of 41’3”.
“It means a lot to me to advance to state because I have a lot of people depending on me,” Sterns said.
In her first trip to state competition on the high school level, Sterns will compete against seven others for the state title.
“I do feel a little pressure as everyone is depending on me to win,” she said. “I don’t think I can do it, but they are telling me I can. So, that is a lot of pressure right there.”
One of Sterns’ biggest supporters is Waxahachie girls’ track coach Dana Scott.
“It’s great to have a sophomore competing at the state track meet. She is only going to get better and better. It also helps promote our girls track program and we’re hoping to get more kids to come out and participate in track. We are very fortunate here to have faculty, administrators, and other coaches give some much support to our track program,” Scott said.
Sterns says there is no secret to her success, she just gets out there and throws the shot put.
Her natural abilities will be on display starting at 6 p.m. on June 5.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she doesn’t break the school record again at the state meet,” Scott said. She has been working very hard in practice every day.”
Sterns is Waxahachie’s first female shot putter to go to state.
In 2000, Gabbie Sutton (daughter of Clift Middle School Principal Ruth Sutton) went to the state in the triple jump.
“Bri is only the second kid we have had go to state since I have coached track here,” Scott said.
Scott started coaching track at WHS in 1998. The year before she started coaching track Shakayla Hawkins advanced to state in the long jump.
“In the last 13 years, Bri is only the third girl to make it to state in track,” Scott said. “I think Bri will do well at state. She has been working through a shoulder injury but she is tough and very competitive.”
Waxahachie will have a total of eight athletes in Austin on June 5. Overall there are 1,819 athletes expected to compete at the state meet from Class 1A-5A.