CAPTION: Burnet pole vaulter Brayden Hill embraces his dad, Dwaine, after the youngster breaks the school record by clearing 15 feet at the Class 4A Region III April 28. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
The calendar is changing to May and that means some athletes and teams are turning their attention to winning state championships, while others are grappling with the ends of their seasons. This incredible sports year will be remembered for all the great outcomes that illustrates that characteristics it takes to win at the highest levels. So before there are any false starts, let’s get to it.
- We’re going to start with track and field and the incredible performances at the University Interscholastic League regional meets. Let’s first go to the Class 4A Region III meet in Huntsville where three Burnet High School middle-distance runners qualified for state meet. To no one’s surprise, senior Hudson Bennett won the 1,600 meters and returns to Mike Myers Stadium on the University of Texas at Austin campus, his home away from home, where he is looking to win the state title. Bennett earned the wild card in the 3,200 meters with the fastest bronze medal finish in the state. He has a chance at three-peating as the state champion in this event. Joining Bennett is sophomore Victor Aviles, who won the 800 meters at the regional meet and broke the school record twice. His finals time of 1 minute and 56.49 seconds is the new standard for the Bulldogs. Lady Dawg freshman Asah Roy is the final Burnet runner to punch her ticket to the state meet thanks to earning the silver medal in the 1,600 meters. Junior pole vaulter Brayden Hill is the regional champion thanks to breaking the program record by clearing 15 feet. Junior Brady Rygaard is took bronze in the pole vault and has a great chance at advancing to the state meet as the wild card recipient. The Bulldogs’ six athletes scored 45 points to finish fourth in the team standings, one place shy of bringing home a team plaque. Gilmer won the team championship with 68 points, while Kilgore and LaGrange each scored 46 points to finish tied for second. The Class 4A state meet is Thursday, May 11, at Mike Myers Stadium.
- On that same day in the same stadium is the Class 3A state meet where Llano junior Gwyn Burnett will compete in the 300-meter hurdles and looks to do better than the state silver medal she earned a year ago. Burnett had a most challenging weekend April 27-29. She is the starting shortstop for the Lady Jackets softball team and helped it advance to the second round of the playoffs thanks to winning the first game 6-0 April 27 in Brownwood and the third game 7-2 April 29 in Hawley. She scored two runs during the first game, two during the 5-3 loss in game two, and two in the series-clinching third contest. Hours earlier, she competed in the finals of the 300-meter hurdles and the 100 meters at Abilene Christian University after running in the preliminaries April 28 along with competing in the long jump. Other athletes faced some of the same challenges with competing in two sports at the same time. The difference? Burnett punched her ticket to return to the state meet while winning gold in a different track region than in 2022. There’s not much this athlete can’t do. Congratulations to her on some incredible performances.
- Let’s talk a little more about the Lady Jackets softball team, particularly the pitching performance of junior Skylar Brown, who threw a no-hitter in game one en route to striking out 11 and then followed that with a 7-2 victory in game three where she gave up two earned runs off seven hits and struck out eight and didn’t allow a walk. Brown was more than clutch in the circle for the Lady Jackets as they now turn their attention to either Early or Jacksboro in the area round of the playoffs.
- Speaking of softball, the Burnet Lady Dawgs completed their sweep of Gatesville April 29 with an 11-1 run-rule victory. What makes the win in game two impressive is the Lady Dawgs showed who they truly are by attacking Gatesville’s pitching staff and earning multiple runs to put the game out of reach in ensuring this business trip was truly successful. What never changed was the approach of Burnet pitchers Presely Crawford and Kyleigh Mott. Crawford was one out and strike away from a perfect game during the 1-0 victory April 27. Had the 21st batter not hit a ball deep to the center field wall, Crawford may have had a perfect game. No matter the score, the situation or what’s happening in other parts of the game, Crawford exemplifies the most important trait of a pitcher. As long as the pitcher is hitting her spots, she gives her team a chance at success. Nothing screams that more than the 14 strikeouts she had in facing a total of 22 batters. The top of the Lady Dawgs’ line-up put massive pressure on the Lady Hornets in the bottom of the sixth inning during game one to make every routine play. And they couldn’t as Journey Denton reached base on a throwing error and scored on another throwing error. Burnet will either meet Smithville or Worthing in the second round of the playoffs where they are looking to advance to the third round for the first time in program history.
- While the ladies continue their postseason treks, the baseball teams start their journeys this week. We’ll start with the Llano Yellow Jackets, who are facing Clyde in a best-of-three series that begins at 4 p.m. Friday, May 5, and continues at noon Saturday, May 6. Game three, if necessary, will follow about 45 minutes after the conclusion of game two. Jackets head coach Todd Doucet said Clyde is much like the Jackets: solid defensive team with strong pitchers and offensive prowess. Still, Llano has the area’s best pitching staff thanks to Caden Bauman, Jackson Dillard, Brock Fly, Kreese Whitson and others who have contributed in key situations throughout the season. Few coaches have a knack for knowing which pitcher to insert during an important moment in a contest quite like Doucet, who is a master in giving his team every opportunity to be successful. That will be another vital part of this series as well as the fact the Jackets have responded incredibly well and delivered when they’ve had to. Need a big out? They’ve done it. Need to rally offensively? They’ve responded. And that’s what makes them a tough out.
- Llano senior Jaxon Rhea signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball for McMurry University April 26. Rhea looked like he could have played collegiate ball in other sports, but baseball is his first love. Congratulations to him and his family on a milestone that is incredibly difficult to do. And he will be very successful on the next level.
- The most important acquisition for the Burnet Bulldogs isn’t so much the series sweep of Lago Vista, though I’m not saying that wasn’t important here. No, what the Bulldogs earned is momentum as they enter the playoffs as District 24-4A’s runners-up where they meet Salado, a district rival from the last two years. The Bulldogs showed a number of traits last week that will help them as they move on to the postseason. The first is they generated multiple runs in beating the Vikings and received production from a number of players. They’ve been consistently good defensively, and that didn’t change against Lago Vista. But the most important trait is pitching. Kurt Kassner performed very well during the 14-4 victory April 25 that ended after the sixth inning. Kade Shaw threw seven complete innings during the Bulldogs’ 6-1 win April 29. Head coach Russell Houston said Shaw exhibited two characteristics that are vital for a pitcher: throwing strikes and trusting his defense. If Burnet can continue to perform like that, it will play well into May. Game one of the best-of-three bi-district series will be played in Salado Thursday, May 4, while game two is at Bulldog Diamonds Friday, May 5. Both games will start at 7 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, with site to be announced.
- The Marble Falls Mustangs also will play game one of their bi-district series at Gatesville at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, and will host the Hornets in game two Friday, May 5. The program will honor its seniors before the contest since rain didn’t allow the final District 24-4A game against Jarrell to be played Friday, April 28, and coaches chose to cancel the contest instead of playing Saturday, April 29, since it didn’t have any bearings on the final district standings. I’ll be curious to see which Mustang pitcher gets the ball for game one. No matter what, the pitching staff will be rested and ready.
- The Marble Falls track season officially ended at the Class 4A Region III meet where sophomore thrower Kylie Roberts finished sixth in the discus with a mark of 105 feet and 2 inches. But perhaps the most painful ending was for senior Zach Woody, who missed advancing to the finals of the 400 meters by three one-hundredths of a second. His 50.96-second finish is a new personal best.
- And finally, the Marble Falls powerlifting team earned a state championship from the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters April 22 where the Mustangs set 15 state and world records and some competed against men, whose eligibility ran out decades ago. They were more than impressive in what they accomplished where they could only bench press and deadlift. As a result, the Mustangs have earned a trip to the association’s world meet, which is in December in Las Vegas. Great job Mustangs!
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