CAPTION: Burnet senior Hudson Bennett with his gold medal that symbolizes winning the Class 4A state championship in the 1,600 meters. Photo by Martelle Ludecke/Luedecke Photography
Burnet High School senior Hudson Bennett called it.
Minutes after teammate Victor Aviles, a sophomore, and he finished first and second in the 1,600 meters at the District 24-4A meet April 13, Bennett looked at Aviles and said:
“He will win a state championship in the 800.”
Almost a month later, when Aviles, who was in third place, found another gear in the final 250 meters to put a valuable gap between himself and defending 800-meter state champion Christopher Moreno of San Elizario to win the gold medal, no fan was happier than Bennett.
“He went around him and beside him on the curve,” head coach Ben Speer said as he described the crucial final few meters. “And ran by him down the stretch. It was pretty incredible. It was over. There’s no way that guy can stay with him.”
Aviles won in 1 minute and 53.36 records to break his own school record for the third time this season. in all, he broke the school record four times in one season.
“He ran a smart race,” Speer said. “We were jumping up and down, and he was in tears. He said he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He wanted to cry and smile at the same time. We’re ecstatic for him. He ran a great race. He ran a smart race. It was good to see him implement that plan.”
About an hour later, the joy continued as the Burnet faithful witnessed Bennett win the only state title that had eluded him — the 1,600 meters. He finished in 4:19.37, outkicking Gatesville senior Carlo Martinez, who was second in 4:19.56.
“We were just ecstatic,” Speer said. “We didn’t ever think this was going to happen. For him to make it back to state and win a gold medal is his most satisfying accomplishment he’s had.”
Their gold medal finishes along with Brayden Hill’s gold medal in the pole vault and Brady Rygaard’s sixth place finish in the event meant the Bulldogs finished sixth in the team standings with 30.5 points.
Bennett won the 2021 and 2022 state championship in the 3,200 meters, but he earned silver and bronze in the 1,600 meters the last two years. To watch him win the one state title that had escaped him meant almost as much to his coaches, family and friends as it did to the runner.
The reason is because earlier this semester, it didn’t look like Bennett would return. He missed the District 24-4A boys basketball campaign and returned to the track midseason.
Then at the Class 4A Region III meet, the two-time defending 3,200-meter state champion finished third, which meant he had to have the fastest time among the four bronze medalists to advance to the state meet in the event as the wild card.
Bennett had enough left to be the regional champion in the 1,600 meters and then saw he had won the wild card in the 3,200. He scratched in that event at the state meet to fully concentrate on the mile.
“It’s one of those stories I get to tell my kids about heart and effort and dedication,” Speer said. “That says a lot about himself and his character. Nobody expected him to be here again, and nobody thought he’d win a medal.”
The coach noted plenty of family members and friends wearing Kelly green were in the stands cheering the runners on, which included freshman Asah Roy, who was eighth in the girls 1,600 meters in 5:22.15.
“We are so proud of our girl Asah,” head coach Crystal Shipley wrote on social media. “First Burnet girl at the state meet in eight years. Two school records with her name on them, and it’s just freshman year.”
“It was fun and a special moment for them,” Speer said of the ensemble gathered at Mike Myers Stadium. “It’s not (guaranteed) you’ll be here next year.”
While Bennett will graduate and don the burnt orange for Texas for the next four years, he has left the program better than he found it and leaves it in the hands of Aviles and Roy. And Kristi Jones, who is the distance running coach on the track and field staff, will be the cross country head coach beginning in 2023-24.
“We have two more years of him,” Speer said of Aviles. “Burnet distance is reloading. We’re losing Hudson, we hate to see him go. He is the only senior in the program. We’re excited. The work they’re putting in is being rewarded. It’s a lot to be excited about.”
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CAPTION: Burnet sophomore Victor Aviles wears his gold medal that he obtained as the 800 meters Class 4A state champion. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography