While the Stephenville girls track and field squad made its presence known at the area meet, qualifying 16 athletes for this weekend’s Region I-4A meet in Lubbock, the school’s one big hope for a repeat state championship is taking the same approach as he did last year.
The SHS girls who are competing in the regional meet are Hailey Martin (long jump, triple jump, 100 hurdles, 400 relay, 800 relay), Jordan Carter (high jump), Payton Wall (300 hurdles, 1,600 relay), Alyssa Northcutt (discus), Bailey McBee (100 hurdles), Amber Walker (400 relay, 800 relay, 1,600 relay), Kristen Pettit (400 relay, 800 relay), Kali Bramlett (pole vault, 400 relay), Chloe Goodman 200, 800 relay), Presley Wall (1,600, 3,200), Shayden Toof (triple jump), Aubreyanna Ziegler (shot put), Emily Kirbo (1,600), Alee McClendon (1,600 relay), Taylor Carter (discus) and Karsen Salyards (pole vault).
The boys regional qualifiers are Blake Aragon (high jump), Krece Nowak (long jump, triple jump, 800 relay), Cole Pettit (800 relay), Caden Cowan (pole vault), Pacen Parker (800 relay), Travis Wayland (800 relay) and Zane Walker (discus).
McBee (100 hurdles) and Northcutt (discus) won area titles for the Honeybees. For the SHS boys, Aragon and Cowan earned individual area championships.
The meet begins Friday in Lubbock.
With so many girls competing, the Honeybees will be one of the top contenders for the regional girls team title in Lubbock. In the area meet held in Springtown, the Honeybees finished second by only nine points to Waxahachie Life School.
"We expect to continue to improve, and let the chips fall where they may," SHS girls coach Jeremiah Butchee said. "We have Honeybees competing in everything except the 100, 200, 400 and two-mile."
SHS senior Blake Aragon won the boys Class 4A state high jump title in 2017 with a height of 6-8, giving the Yellow Jackets their first individual state track and field champion since 2001. He said he will count on his mental approach and confidence to get him through.
“If I tell myself — my mind tells my body what to do,” Aragon said.
Aragon, who is also training in preparation for his freshman season of football with Texas State University in San Marcos, said he has been lifting weights on their prescribed offseason program and gained 20 pounds from when he won the state high jump title a year ago at 185 pounds. Aragon, who stands 6-5, signed a letter of intent to play from the NCAA Division I-FBS school in San Marcos.
Despite the extra muscle and weight, it’s all about the mental approach when it comes to trying to repeat as the state champion.
“Weight-wise, I thought I’d be a solid 190 or 195, but I got bigger, stronger, faster,” Aragon said. “I kind of was in a slump for a while. I jumped pretty decent last week. It’s really a mindset for me. My goal is to break my record — get seven feet before I walk the (graduation) stage.”
Teammate Krece Nowak, a junior, will compete in three events in Lubbock, but one of them is unexpected. He sacrificed for the good of the boys team in the area meet, withdrawing from the 100-meter dash to replace the injured Kyle Lindsey on the 800-meter relay team that qualified for the regional meet. He joined Pacen Parker, Cole Pettit and Travis Wayland on the 800 relay to place fourth with a time of 1:32.35 to advance.
Nowak will also compete at regional in the long jump and triple jump. He had qualified for the area meet in the 400-meter relay and 1,600-meter relay, but those teams did not advance.
Nowak told boys coach Kreg Kimple he was voluntarily dropping out of the 100 in order to fill in for Lindsey, who is sidelined with a hip injury.
“I was looking at the times for the 100, and I wouldn’t have made it out of the finals,” Nowak said. “I tried doing what was best for the team. I did it (the 800 relay) last year, so I was pretty familiar with the handoffs and coming out of the blocks.”
Nowak said that even though he has three events to focus on, he has a plan.
“I just have to go into it like it was just another meet and not get nervous, and stay focused,” said Nowak, who qualified for regional in long jump his freshman year and in triple jump as a sophomore. “I just try to PR (get a personal best) every week.”
Martin accomplished the remarkable feat of advancing to regional in five events, and this is her fourth straight year to compete at this level. She qualified for regional in four events as a junior, and in three events her freshman year.
“I’m really happy to make it in five events,” said Martin, who was also a standout in volleyball and basketball. “It’s a big honor, but I really do want to make it to state. Hurdles and triple jump are what I’m looking to get out (to state) in.
“I just love the thrill of being out here and competing — you and the stopwatch. I’m super competititve, and I love to win, but I also love to push myself and be the best I can be.”
Carter is aiming for her second straight trip to the state meet, in the girls high jump. She placed seventh in Austin last year, with a jump of 5-2. She indicated that the regional meet had been her basic goal last year.
“Regional was the peak last year, so definitely this year is more for fun,” said Carter, who will be the salutatorian of the SHS Class of 2018. “Since it’s my senior year, I’m trying to embrace everything.”
That’s according to her father, SHS coach Joe Carter, who coaches the school’s high jumpers.
“The cool thing about Jordan is that she’s consistent,” Joe Carter said during practice Monday. “We want to get that extra two inches before regional. That’ll give her a great shot at getting out.”
Jordan, whose personal record high jump is 5-6, said that having her father as her coach is something she appreciates.
“It’s definitely a special experience for your dad to coach you. This is his third year coaching me. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It’s really special to make all these memories with him, especially since it’s my senior year.”
For senior Payton Wall, this is the fourth straight time to compete at the regional level, including four consecutive times as part of the 1,600 relay. Her freshman sister, long-distance specialist Presley Wall, also is competing in Lubbock, in the 1,600 and 3,200.