Two years after a crushing defeat, a Kilgore relay team is the best in the state.
The KHS boys 800 meter relay team won the gold medal Saturday in the Class 4A event in the University Interscholastic League’s State Track & Field Championships, at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Patrick “Buddy” Jackson, Jonathan Shepherd, Terrell Shelton and Melek Hamilton, in that order, ran the 800 relay for the Bulldogs, and Cameron Jackson and Omar Sanders made the trip as alternates.
The gold medal performance only adds to the lore of the 2016-17 school year at Kilgore High School that will only grow over time. Just this school year, Kilgore athletic teams have combined for six district championships, playoff appearances or postseason in almost every sport, and two state championships – and Kilgore’s boys doubles tennis team plays in the state meet this weekend (see story in this section).
Winning this latest championship was ultra-close, Kilgore coach Phillip Lane said..
“We were in a dead heat with Atlanta,” Lane said, “and it finished that way. We both came in originally at (one minute, 26.67 seconds). They had to take it out a little more and look at the exact time. Ours was 1:26.663, and Atlanta’s was 1:26.670. So it was that close.”
And then the celebration began, Lane said.
“We are all just ecstatic,” he laughed. “Everybody’s phone was blowing up right there. It was a much well-deserved pat on the back, and congratulations. And I was real excited that so many of our kids’ families and friends were able to come down and support them. It was exciting to me they were able to do that.”
It was a far cry from two years ago, when Shepherd, as a freshman, and the mile relay team had done so well in getting to state, only to come up short. Shelton and Hamilton were alternates on that team, as well.
“They know now the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory,” said Lane, in his 11th season. “And the thrill of victory is a lot, lot better.”
Hamilton had a difficult task. He celebrated with his teammates, then had to go compete -- he was also qualified for state in the 200 meter dash.
“He is so competitive,” Lane said, “but even he had a hard time getting back out there and getting control of things, it was such a high and so exciting winning (the relay).”
Hamilton didn’t medal in the 200, finishing in 22.54 seconds, but was tickled to celebrate with teammates.
And some of them will be back. Hamilton and Shelton are both seniors. But Jackson and Shepherd are juniors, Cameron Jackson is a freshman and Sanders is a sophomore.
In addition to Kilgore, there were a couple of other entries in the state meet from Sabine and West Rusk.
West Rusk’s Jayla Hooper competed in the Class 3A girls shot put. She came in fifth, finishing at 39 feet, 5 inches, on Friday.
Sabine’s Adam Caudle competed in the Class 3A boys 110 meter hurdles on Saturday afternoon. Caudle finished seventh (15.30 seconds; the winning time was 14.40 seconds by Ryan Herring of McGregor).