Before the first spike hit the track at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, the members of the Life Waxahachie track-and-field team knew they were poised for a record-shattering 4A state championship meet.
The 10 Lady Mustangs and Jason Locke did not disappoint, either.
The girls ultimately placed third-overall in 4A. But the biggest praise should rightfully be bestowed on Locke, who won the 4A boys' 400-meter run in a school-record 48.33, just edging second-place Peyton Hoffrichter of China Spring (48.64) and Pedro Vasquez of Fort Stockton (48.81).
Locke is the third-ever UIL state champion in the history of Life Waxahachie, regardless of the sport. The other two, also track-and-field athletes, were Kaine Blake (2014, long jump) and Kylah Smith (2015, 100-meter hurdles).
The pace set by Locke would've placed sixth in Class 6A, won by El Paso Franklin's Omajuwa Etiwe (46.51), and second in Class 5A behind Lancaster sprinter Dillon Bedell (48.14). Locke's time was fast enough to win any of the other three classifications.
The 4A state record of 45.64 was set in 1981 by Anthony Ketchum of Needville, while the national record of 45.19 was set in 2012 by Mansfield Timberview's Aldrich Bailey.
Locke also became the first Ellis County male track athlete to win a state championship at any level since Waxahachie High's Jalen Reagor won the 5A long jump in 2017.
Staying with the stellar individual performances by Life Waxahachie runners, Lady Mustang hurdler Kayla Jenkins also had quite the Saturday on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Jenkins first placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.06, which just trailed third-place Kimberly Carr (14.92, West Columbia) and second-place Aleah Constantine (14.91, Fredericksburg).
Huntington hurdler Makenzie Hale set a new 4A record in 14.03 to win the state title in the 100-meter hurdles, besting the time set by Chimika Carter, of Groesbeck, in 1996 (14.04).
Jenkins then quickly put the fourth-place finish in the rearview and placed third a little under two hours later in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 44.92, which was well ahead of fourth-place Mackenzie Grimes (45.24, Canyon).
Carr won the race in 43.57 and Anna Catherine Griffith (Taylor) placed second in a time of 44.46.
Ahead of the state meet, Life Waxahachie head track-and-field coach Lyle Linscomb noted Jenkins' times were "quite a bit faster than last year" and thought the junior had put in the work to finish with a state medal in either race.
As for the three Lady Mustang relay teams that competed in Austin, that group combined to pick up 28 team points with a third-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay and two fourth-place finishes in the 4x100 and 4x200.
The point total, combined with the points accumulated by Jenkins, placed the Lady Mustangs third-overall in 4A for the highest-ever team finish in the history of Life Waxahachie — in any sport.
Ahead of the state meet, Ashley Benton thought the 4x400 relay team had the best chance to win because "we are stacked, all four of us are ready to run."
She was right, as the group of Jayda Jones, Benton, Tonee Thompson and Dejah Fuller finished in 3:55.34, good enough for third place by more than four seconds and just off of the pace set by Texarkana Liberty-Eylau (3:54.09) and Canyon (3:55.23).
It was the same Life Waxahachie squad that ran during Texas Relays and also marked the first time for that group to race together since then.
"We communicate with each other very good and get along and have a good connection with one another and that is what makes our relays good," said Jones when asked what made the group of four juniors so successful.
Linscomb explained, "It comes down to their sheer desire to not lose. Yeah, they want to win, but they do not want to lose."
Aushea Sanders, who competed in the 4x100-meter relay, agreed with her head coach.
"That's true. When we step onto that track, we are there to win," added Sanders, who was one of the two Lady Mustang seniors that made the trip to Austin. "We are not worried about who is behind us or who is behind us, we go out there to drop our times."
Sanders and Mariah Williams were the lone seniors and the two now combine for seven state meet appearances, while all of the 10 Life Waxahachie girls had previously competed at the 4A state meet in 2018 in various events.
Sanders and Williams comprised the first and third legs of the 4x100-meter relay team that finished fourth in a time of 47.82 behind Dallas Carter (46.57), Liberty-Eylau (46.65) and Kennedale (46.94). Benton and Jones ran legs two and four Life Waxahachie in the event.
It was the fourth year for Sanders to compete at the state meet and the first time she qualified as an individual, as she placed second (12.62) behind Shayla Arthur (12.17, Palestine) in the 4A Region III championships.
Arthur went on to finish sixth at the state meet in the finals with a time of 12.35, which was well behind the 11.77 first-place run set by Kennedale's Alexis Brown. Sanders did compete in the finals after sustaining as injury during the 4x100-meter relay.
In the 4x200-meter relay, Thompson, Benton, Williams and Jones placed fourth with a time of 1:41.10.
Liberty-Eylau won the event with a new state record time of 1:38.59, which bested the program's previous state-best 1:39.00 set in 2011.
Giddings ( 1:41.01) was second and Fort Worth Dunbar was third (1:41.06).
Benton also qualified for the state meet in the 400-meter run after placing second with a time of 56.70 in the 4A Region III championships behind Jackeria Woodkins (56.00) of La Marque but elected to withdraw her name from the field ahead of the state championships.
Woodkins ultimately won the 4A girls' 400-meter championship in 55.88. Had Benton of entered the race and ran the same 56.70 that she posted in the regional meet, she'd have placed fourth.
"This is special because we have had this group for so long," Linscomb said. "Most of them have been varsity runners since they were freshmen, so seeing them progress is the special part."
Linscomb added, "When I asked them what they wanted our motto of the year to be, they said 'All in,' and that's kind of been our mindset. We've battled injuries. We've traveled a ton and we put them against some of the best 4A competition that they were going to see and they continued to rise to the occasion. That's been what has impressed me the most. They set the tone for themselves and they've lived that out for the entire year."