ELLIS COUNTY — While some grabbed the proverbial brass ring that is a state championship meet berth, others came within seconds of making 2017 one of the greatest track seasons in recent Ellis County memory. Whether it was a top-20 finish by Brandon Gilliand, near qualifying finishes by Madison Babers and Nick Henderson or state clinches by the WHS' 4X100- and 4X200-meter relay teams, teams in Avalon, Italy, Midlothian, Milford and Waxahachie staked claims to the top of high school track and field's future. Waxahachie's claim — regardless of gender — to the 5A throne flew in the face of multiple time former state champion Lancaster High School.
"They're not even 100 percent healthy," said Andre Granger, the head WHS track coach. "It will be good to have two weeks of rest and let the boys heal and get ready for Austin."
CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR
According to information derived from Athletic.net standings, Gilliland finished the 3,200-meter run No. 14 after a 10:26.28 finish. The junior was little more than a minute behind Mansfield Summit High School's Asa Rice, the regional champ and state qualifier.
Gilliand's finish was also only 24 seconds behind a personal record set during the UIL District 10-5A Meet in Lancaster on April 13. His best 2016 time — 10:301.55 — came during last year's District 14-5A Meet.
The Flyin' and Lady Indians entered the meet with the fifth-best 5A 4X100-meter relay with a time of 40.95 and the seventh-best 4X100-meter relay with a time of 1:26.24. Jalen Reagor, Kenedy Snell, DeVeon Sargent and Keontrey Jackson finished second in both the 4X100-meter relay (41.85) and 4X200-meter (1:28.38) and qualified for state behind Lancaster High School and Mansfield Summit High Schools, respectively.
Nick Henderson, Ellis County's only 300-meter hurdles 5A representative, finished third behind Wylie East High School's Justin Young and Frisco Liberty High School's Christian Palmer, ran 39.78 and qualified for state as an alternate.
"He's improved so much since the season first started," Assistant Coach Lamont More said. "At the beginning, he was running a 44-second 300. That's almost six seconds."
Reagor also qualified for the long jump after finishing third in the event behind Mansfield Lake Ridge's Langdon Williams (1st, 23-08.75) and Lucas Lovejoy's Chase Van Wagoner (2nd, 23-02.75) with a 22-foot and 10-inch leap.
His area title-winning 26-foot jump at Lancaster on April 20, was deemed one of the best in the state by MileSplit.
"He finished third, but they take the next best out of all of the regions," Granger said. "The same thing happened last year in the 4X100. We got third at regionals but had the next best time of all the remaining, non-qualifying regional teams."
GIRLS' GOT TALENT
The Lady Indians, too, showed how close they might be to superstardom after two athletes nearly qualified for state in field events and a first-year track and field hurdler opened the eyes of her regional competitors.
"Unfortunately another third place finisher had a faster time in another region, which knocked her out of the race for qualifying as an alternate," Lady Indian Coach Dana Scott said. "Madison has had a great year as a freshman and Todd Alexander has done a great job coaching our hurdlers. The experience she and our throwers got this year against tough regional competition is invaluable to their development next season."
Babers, a freshman, finished as a state qualifying alternate in the 100-meter hurdles with a 15.40 finish — behind Lancaster senior Kyla Glenn (14.25) and sophomore Kiara Smith (14.78). Her season best and WHS record of 14.93 during the UIL 5A District 10-5A Meet prelims would have placed her third in the race.
Delanna Green, who earned her second consecutive regional appearance but the first in the shot put, finished seventh in the event with a throw of 33 feet and 10.5 inches.
"Delanna had a great finish to her senior season as a thrower and there is a lot to be excited with both Madison and Sha'Quoria coming back next year," Scott said. "The distance they've covered because of the Coach Alexander and Coach (Bobbie) Janky has put them in a good position when next season rolls around."
Thompson, a junior and the 2017 discus area champion, finished No. 11 behind Midlothian's Avisake Bulai (1st, 138-01) and Manfield Lake Ridge's Taiwo-Bayonle Olayiwola (3rd, 122-07) and McKinney North's Chiko Ugwunze (9th, 110-05) with a distance of 105 feet and 5 inches.
Other than Ugwunze, a junior, and Dallas Adams' D'Aishia Henderson and Frisco Centennial's Rachel Blake, Thompson was the only other non-senior in the regional event. The Waxahachie junior's area meet throw of 124 feet and three inches would have placed second at regionals.
ELLIS COUNTY OFF TO STATE
Though the Flyin' Indians 4X100- and 4X200-meter relay teams will travel to Austin on May 12 at the University of Texas' Mike A. Meyers' Stadium for the UIL 5A State Meet, they won't be the only Ellis County representatives.
Nineteen athletes from Avalon, Life Waxahachie and Milford ISDs will join them on the trek to the state's capital.
Midlothian's Bulai and Life Waxahachie High School's girls' 4X100-meter (2nd, 48.26) team of Ashley Benton, Aushea Sanders, Taylor Shaw and Mariah Williams and 4X200-meter (1st, 1:44.44) relay team of Benton, Sanders, Williams and relay alternate Kyla Tipps and state-qualifying shot putter Macaela Sanders (2nd, 37-00.75) also join the list of state-bound county athletes.
At the Region III Meet at Palestine High School, Italy High School's 4X100-meter relay team of April Lusk, Tkeyah Pace, Courtney Riddle and Chardanae Talton and 4X200-meter relay team of Lusk, Pace, Riddle and Shaniyah Johnson reached state after running respective 50.85 and 1:47:35 times.
Lusk also qualified as a 100-meter dash state alternate after finishing third with a 13.09. Emmy Cunningham qualified as a state alternate in the shot put (3rd, 34-06).
Avalon High School's Ryan Ozymy qualified for state in the 800-meter run after finishing second with a 1:59.62. He was two-tenths of a second away from earning a regional championship.
Ozymy, Tony Balderas, Miguel Padron and Terry Shears also qualified as state alternates in the 4X400-meter relay.
Milford, a city that lies 21 miles from Waxahachie and sits on the county border, also notched several berths in the state track and field meet.
While Jaylon Davis, James McIntyre, MarKavion Thompson and Damyan Woodward placed second (1:36.83) in the 4X200-meter relay, McIntyre finished third in the 110-meter hurdles (15.84).
FOR THE LOVE OF TAPPS
Ovilla Christian School's Lindley and Delaney Case, Andres De Leon, Ricky Eubank, Zach Fitch, Luke Glenn, Destani Warner and three relay teams qualified for the Friday and Saturday's TAPPS State Championships at Waco's Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium.
Warner finished first in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.67 and the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.97, Fitch finished second in the 400-meter dash with a 51.56. De Leon finished first in both the 110-meter (17.88) and 300-meter (43.86) hurdles and the girls' 4X200- and 4x400-meter relay teams and boys 4X200-meter relay each placed for state.
Lindley and Delaney finished first (34-08) and second (29-00) in the shot put and second (87-05) and third (70-00) in the discus. Glenn and Eubank finished first (40-00) and third (37-03) in the shot put and Eubank qualified for state in the discus with a 109-foot throw.