Three Highland Lakes athletes are still in pursuit of state championships that will be settled at state track and field meets Thursday and Friday, May 11-12, at Mike Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus, 707 Clyde Littlefield Drive in Austin.
They are Burnet junior middle-distance runner Hudson Bennett, Llano sophomore hurdler Gwyn Burnett, and Marble Falls senior pole vaulter Django Segovia.
Bennett is aiming to successfully defend the 3,200-meter Class 4A state championship he won a year ago and improve on the state bronze medal he captured in the 1,600 meters also in 2021.
“Hudson returning to state is definitely an advantage,” head coach Ben Speer said. “Anytime you get the opportunity to run in the same venue more than once is always a bonus. Especially at Mike Myers. The venue and crowd can be very intimidating. If you know Hudson, he wants to win gold in whatever he’s competing in. He’s focused on winning both the 3,200 meters and the 1,600 meters. It would be an accomplishment that not many distance runners achieve.”
The runner arrived for 6:30 a.m. practices weeks leading up to the state meet.
“I’ve been working toward this since basketball season ended (in February),” he said. “I’m done with preparation time. I’m ready to go.”
“Nothing has changed for Hudson,” Speer said. “He’s still on his same workout routine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He does a great job showing up every morning and executing his workout. Coach Kristi Jones is always on hand to assist him and give him feedback.”
The Bulldog enters the 3,200 meters with the sixth fastest time at 9 minutes 44.42 seconds and the fastest time in the 1,600 meters in 4:21.21.
San Elizario junior Christopher Moreno has the fastest time in the 3,200 meters, clocking 9:29.76 at regionals.
“I think it’s a little motivation for Hudson,” Speer said. “He’s definitely not concerned. I know he hasn’t seen that type of competition in the 3,200 meters yet. He’s got eight laps to prove to everyone that he’s still the best in 4A. I expect him to be right up there towards the top when all is said and done.”
The Bulldog outlined his plan for the 3,200 meters.
“I’m going to stay behind everyone and see about my kick (the ability to go faster to close out a race near the finish line),” he said. “Everyone has gotten a lot faster. I think everyone wants it as bad as I do.”
Fort Worth Diamond HIll-Jarvis sophomore Angel Sanchez has the second-fastest time in the 1,600 meters in 4:21.67 and will start in lane seven. Speer pointed out that Bennett’s personal best time in this distance is 4:46.27 set weeks before the regional meet.
“Time wise, he’s got some company around him, but he’s gone sub 4:20 this season,” he said. “So, he knows he’s got the ability to go faster if needed.”
Bennett recognized the names of some runners because he competed against them at different track meets across the state earlier this year.
“They can all run fast,” he said. “On any given day, they’re going to give their best. And I’m going to give my best. So we’ll see who’s the best.”
“Hudson is a distance runner who has the ability to sprint,” Speer said. “Most of the time, your distance runners struggle with arm drive and knee lift due to the fact that the long repetition training does not require much from their upper body and hip flexors. Hudson works on his sprint, and he has the rare ability to do so when needed. This makes him very dangerous if the race is close and we’re headed into the home stretch.”
The Class 4A state meet is Thursday, May 11. Bennett will run the 3,200 meters at 9: 45 a.m. and is assigned lane two and the 1,500 meters at 7:50 p.m. and is assigned lane three.
“Hudson is so tough during a race because he’s the complete package,” Speer said. “He’s smart, prepared, he has a plan, and he just doesn’t want to lose.”
Bennett also will run at the League of Champions meet in San Antonio May 21 and had to meet a standard to compete.
Like Bennett, Burnett is entering her race, the 300-meter hurdles, with the fastest regional time at 43.95 seconds. But right on her heels is Goliad sophomore Kyla Hill, who lost to Burnett at the Class 3A Region III meet by clocking 43.96 seconds. Two other runners, Tatum senior Makensi Greenwood and Merkel senior Alyssa O’Malley, both clocked 45.38 seconds at regionals. Burnett has been assigned lane six and Hill is in lane eight. The race will be conducted at 7:10 p.m. Thursday.
Segovia picked up the wild card awarded to the top third-place finisher when comparing the regional heights. Segovia cleared 15 feet at the Class 5A Region IV meet.
“We’re very proud of Django for ending up at this meet,” coach Chris Schrader said. “It’s a big honor, a big accolade. Nine of the best kids will go compete. We’re really proud of him.”
To prepare, Segovia has been traveling to Austin three days a week for three-hour practices with private coach Brian Elmore.
“I’ve been trying to get my form down,” he said. “Having upper body strength and being fast down the runway does help. I’m talking about the planting into the box and jumping in the air and turning around on the pole.”
The top competition is Prosper Rock Hill senior Gavin Hecke, who cleared 16-0 at regionals followed by Gregory-Portland junior Jacob Thomas and Burleson junior Reece Williams, who each vaulted 15-3.
Schrader noted one Segovia trait that makes him difficult to beat.
“He’s got a demeanor that if he misses, it doesn’t fluster him,” he said. “And then on the next opportunity, he puts it all together. He doesn’t get flustered with a miss, and he’s great under pressure. He stays composed, and he’s very down to earth. He’s composed under pressure.”
Segovia will make his Mike Myers Stadium debut at 1 p.m. Friday, May 12, for the Class 5A state meet.
“I’m not really nervous, but I also don’t want to do badly,” he said. “I’ll go in and do the best I can.”
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