They say opportunity knocks — if that’s the case, then it’s pounding on the doors of the best track and field athletes in the state this week.
The University Interscholastic League hosts the best performers from this year in its annual UIL State Track & Field Championships at the University of Texas in Austin, at Mike A. Myers Stadium. The event begins Thursday with athletes from classes 4A and 3A, which includes those making the trip from Kilgore High School and West Rusk High School.
Kilgore’s Kaleeia Johnson gets to compete right out of the gate in the girls 4A shot put. Johnson will hit the track Thursday morning at 9 a.m. At the UIL Class 4A Region II meet at Texas A&M-Commerce late last month, Johnson hit a throw of 38 feet, 2 inches, now her personal-best and a school record.
Not long after Johnson, it’ll be Kilgore’s Kaden Kenney in the 4A boys shot put, beginning at 10:30. Kenney also had a personal best at regionals, 55 feet, with the winner just one foot, nine inches in front.
West Rusk’s Calvin Mason takes his turn at 2 p.m., with the 3A boys shot put. Mason won the shot at the UIL Class 3A Region II meet at Whitehouse in April. There, he had a best of 47 feet, 3 inches.
The focus shifts away from the throwers at 2:45 p.m., when Corey Rider represents coach Phillip Lane’s Bulldogs in the 4A boys triple jump, and at 5:45 p.m., Matthew Tyeskie competes in the 4A boys 110 meter hurdles. Tyeskie is back at 7:10 p.m. to run in the 300 meter hurdles.
At regionals, Tyeskie finished third — barely — in the 110 meter hurdles, but had the fastest time of anyone in the state at a regional who finished third, so he’s at the state meet as one of the wild cards. Tyeskie won the 300 meter hurdles at regionals, clocking in at 38.18 seconds.
Rider was second at regionals in the triple jump, hitting a personal-best of 43 feet, 7.5 inches. Darius Fuller of Waxahachie only beat Rider by four inches.
The sprinters get the prime time stage. West Rusk’s CiAunnia “Ci-Ci” Coleman runs in the 3A girls 100 meter dash at 6:05, and her teammates, the boys 800 meter relay team from West Rusk (Ty Harper, Geremiah Smith, Omarion Anthony, Andon Mata, William Jackson and Da’Larrion Warren) runs at 6:25.
Coleman heads to state with a time at regionals of 12.17 seconds in the 100 meter dash. And West Rusk’s 800 meter relay finished the course at regionals in Whitehouse in one minute, 30.46 seconds.
KHS freshman Caine Stanley winds up the night for the Kilgore-area athletes, running in the boys 4A 200 meter dash at 7:30. Stanley goes into the state meet as the regional champ — in Commerce, he ran the 200 in 21.28 seconds, which is now the fastest time for any freshman in the nation in the 200 meter dash.
The meet continues on Friday with athletes from 2A and 5A, and on Saturday, with 6A and 1A athletes.
The UIL state track meet starts each day at 9 a.m., at Myers Stadium on the UT campus at 707 Clyde Littlefield Drive, Austin, 78705.
Anyone planning to be at the state meet should be aware that social distancing and face covering protocols are in place, and should enter into the venue at gates one and four.
Tickets are needed, and can be purchased at the site or online at www.texaslonghorns.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=UIL.TF&linkID=texath&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode
Tickets are $15 each for a single session, or $25 for an all-day pass for each day, as in $25 for a Thursday pass, $25 for a Friday all-day pass, etc.
UT does have a clear bag policy; all bags larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches, including purses and diaper bags, must be clear plastic, and not larger than 12 inches by six inches by 12 inches. All bags must be checked before entering the stadium. Check out the regulations at TexasSports.com/clearbag.
Anyone not planning to attend but who would like to see any of the state track meet can do so, for a fee, at the NFHS Network, streaming online. The link: https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/uil