AUSTIN — There had been individual state gold in 2014 and 2015, but in 10 years of existence, Life Waxahachie High School had never medaled in a girls' relay — or any other team sport.
Not until the 4A UIL State Track and Field Championships 4X100-meter relay Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, that is.
"Shawn Foulks was the first really good track kid we had and he ended up getting second in the 100-meter dash," said Lyle Linscomb, the Mustangs' head track and field coach. "He kind of got a raw deal. He slipped coming out of the blocks and lost by 2/100 of a second. The first real prominent girl was Chelsea Lacour, who went [to state] three or four times in the high jump. Last year was the first time we ever took a relay to state, though."
In 2015, the relay team of Aushea Sanders, Taylor Shaw, Ashley Sewell and Tatum Thorton, was the first relay in Life Waxahachie history to reach the state meet.
Before the foursome of Sanders, Shaw, Ashley Benton and Mariah Williams won the 4X100-meter relay four consecutive meets, claimed a District 8-4A title or placed third in Austin, there were two that carried the Mustang torch.
Kane Blake, who took state in the long jump in 2014, and Kylah Smith, who won gold and exited high school with first place gold and as the best 4A 100-meter hurdler in the state, were the only two state championships the school won.
The ceiling of the team that finished third in the 4X100-meter relay and seventh in the 4X200-meter relay on Saturday, Liscomb said, is heads and shoulders above and more talented than the school's first relay.
"I've been coaching here six years and that team was the most talented I'd ever seen," Linscomb said about his the first of his state tandems. "The team this year is inexperienced but a lot more talented than that one."
It wasn't all sunshine and roses, though.
After trouncing well-established programs like Dallas Madison, Grand Prairie, Terrell and Tyler's TK Gorman during the Mike Williams Invitational, TK Gorman Relays, Rick Pinson Invitational and Granbury Johnny Perkins Relays, they fell to second, third and sixth place in their next three.
That included finishing behind Uplift Hampton (46.21), Dallas Carter (46.92), the Kinkaid School (48.15), Brusly (48.18) and Kennedale (48.40) at the Texas Relays — the same track they would win bronze on two months later.
"They were talented and there were pieces of the team's missing because of Spring Break, but they needed to lose those races," Linscomb said. "Losing taught them that they weren't just going to run through every team and meet they faced. It taught them that the Dallas Carter's and the Liberty-Eylau's existed and how to race against them."
A talented but inexperienced team needed a spark. Being beaten on Austin's national stage provided the jumpstart.
Linscomb should know talent when he sees it. Through six years with Life Waxahachie — five as a head coach and one as an assistant under former Head Coach Daniel Dagen — he's seen talented crops like Blake, Benton, Fuller, Sewell, Smith and Thorton roll through yearly.
There has been Foulks, a man that earned silver medal in the 100-meter dash and a scholarship to McMurray State — the first in Liscomb's tenure — and Lacour, who earned silver in the high jump.
Never, Linscomb said, has there ever been a group that had the potential to "run the table" the next three to four years. And despite the meteoric success experienced in year one of the youth project, the key to what has become a proverbial Mustang-powered race car is the maturity of one.
Linscomb called her their glue.
"When you watch her warmup, she is so focused. Her work ethic is second to none," he said about Sanders. "Stoic is a word that I like to use for her. She instantly as a freshman was running varsity. When you're dealing with freshman and sophomores, somebody's got to step up and be the leader. They're young and immature and have no idea how good they could be and Aushea's the one that's so focused she pulls it together."
The deep talent well hidden within the walls of Life Waxahachie may not be limited to the four that claimed bronze in Austin.
The sixth year track and field coach at Life Waxahachie said that with sophomores Karrington Hall and Allysia Williams and freshmen Jayda Jones and Dejah Fuller waiting in the wings, the Mustangs may be able to put a stranglehold on Texas' top three spots in the 4X100-, 4X200- and 4X400-meter relays.
Benton, a freshman, broke the school's 26.17 200-meter dash record and Jones broke the school's 60.36 400-meter record — Sanders record last year — three times. She now holds the record with a .59.00 finish time.
Kylah Tipps, who began the year on junior varsity, ended the year with the team's third fastest 200-meter time of the year and helped the 4X200-meter relay team reach the state meet when Fuller missed the competition because of undisclosed religious reasons.
"It's kind of a running joke around here," Lipscomb said. "We have so much talent spread around here, that there's not really a junior varsity team. It's more like a super varsity."
There is a line between the those with the ability to achieve greatness and those who dream but never reach it. He said that hard work is the thing that bridges those two worlds together and turns fantasy into reality.
While other teams or people would have been content to grip their medals happily and ride the wave of good vibes through the offseason, Linscomb said his girls did the exact opposite.
"They walked off and they were happy. We went in as the fifth or sixth-seeded team — if you take the regional times," he said. "Everybody knew that Carter was the class of the field and that Kennedale was going to be nearby. It didn't matter. If you watch that race the fourth leg, Kennedale beats her by a lean. That's 0.05 seconds a couple weeks after they beat us by a half a second at regionals. They hate to lose, probably more than anybody I've ever met. That's the best thing about them. It's going to drive them. We're in the van driving home and they were already talking about summer workouts and how they're going to get better.
"We were seventh in the state of Texas. You should be happy with that. But they knew they had a bad 4X200 exchange and a couple of bobbled handoffs in the race where it mattered most when we hadn't had one all year. They're not going to be satisfied with what they perceive as mediocrity. It's a relentless and fearless drive to be great that amazing to see in person."
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI