The best track and field athletes in Texas convened this past week for the state meet, which took place on Thursday through Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
While simply qualifying for the state competition is a big achievement, simply being there was not enough for a handful of local athletes, as they also brought back physical mementos of the trip in the form of medals.
Poteet senior Kendrick Smallwood capped one of the most decorated high school track and field careers in recent memory in style with a pair of medals, including gold in the 110 hurdles.
Three years ago, Smallwood flashed his potential when he not only qualified for the state meet, he finished fifth, just eight-hundredths of a second out of second place.
After being denied an opportunity to compete during his sophomore campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smallwood made the most of his chance to return in his junior season, where he turned in two dominant performances en route to winning gold in the 110 and 300 hurdles.
This season, he has gotten stiff competition from the emergence of McKinney North senior Kody Blackwood, who will join Smallwood as a teammate back in Austin at Texas in the fall.
On Friday, Smallwood defended his 5A championship in the 110 hurdles, winning in a time of 13.44 seconds, which was just four-hundredths off the state record.
A little later in the day, Smallwood claimed silver in the 300 hurdles, as his time of 36.24 was just off the pace of Blackwood, who crossed in 36.14.
Though he was the only Poteet athlete competing at the state meet, Smallwood’s 18 points allowed the Pirates to finish tied for sixth in the 5A boys team standings.
Smallwood was not alone in terms of local athletes claiming gold medals during the course of the week.
On Saturday, Sachse sophomore Favor Anyanwu took first place in the 6A girls shot put.
Also a standout on the volleyball court, where she was voted as the district offensive player of the year last fall, Anyanwu earned gold with a throw of 45-01-50, which was nearly 10 inches ahead of runner-up Leah Acosta of Midland Lee (44-03.75).
Frisco ISD once again sent a large contingent of athletes to the state meet and a trio were able to claim gold medals.
Wakeland junior Hannah Pfiffner defended her state title in the high jump by clearing 6-00.00, which was six inches higher than the rest of the field.
After finishing second a year ago, Heritage junior Kirin Chacchia earned gold in the girls 300 hurdles, as her time of 42.54 held off runner-up Desirae Roberts of Fort Bend Marshall (42.73).
Last year, Liberty senior Chris Johnson helped the Redhawks capture the 5A boys team championship.
On Friday, Johnson captured an individual gold medal, as his mark of 24-04.50 in the long jump outdistanced the field, which included Princeton’s Gavin Champ and Memorial’s Ronald De Madet (23-06.00), who earned bronze.
Mesquite senior Cameron Boger earned a silver medal in the 6A boys 300 hurdles, where his time of 37.18 was behind only champion Eugene Liger of Cypress Woods, who crossed the finish line in 36.51.
Also competing at the 6A level, Sachse’s Kennedy Swann finished seventh in the girls 100 meters and Naaman Forest’s Markis Deal was ninth in the boys shot put.
Lone Star sophomore Hannah Forde claimed a silver medal in the girls triple jump with a mark of 41-08.00, placing second behind Pflugerville Hendrickson’s Suzan Oguenleye (42-09.25).
In the same event, West Mesquite junior Precious Okougbodu took sixth with a jump of 40-03.75.
Lebanon Trail junior Laila Hackett earned the silver in the girls 100 meters in a time of 11.55 seconds, with Carrollton Newman Smith’s Aniyah Bigam winning the gold (11.46).
Hackett nearly added another medal in the 200, where her fourth-place time of 23.92 was just four-hundredths of a second out of third.
Wakeland senior Nati Enright also narrowly missed out on the medal stand as he placed fourth in the boys 3,200, with Reedy junior Garrick Spieler taking sixth in the same race.
The Liberty girls sent a pair of relay teams to Austin, as the 4x100 and 4x200 quartet of Jada Williams, Sydney Smoak, Ivana Odonkor and Sydney Bishop finished sixth in both events.
Heritage sophomore Kameron Franklin placed fifth in the boys high jump (6-04.00), as did Lone Star sophomore Kelis Jules in the girls 100 hurdles (14.28), Liberty senior Cameron Wooley in the boys 400 (48.65) and Memorial senior Erin O’Brien in the girls 1,600 (5:04.36).
Rounding out the FISD state qualifiers, Memorial sophomore Falyn Lott was sixth in the girls long jump (19-01.00), Frisco senior Kevin Curry IV took seventh in the boys 1,600 (4:22.78), Heritage senior Zavion Langrin placed seventh in the boys 200 (21.28), Reedy senior Keaton Raney crossed seventh in the boys 800 and Independence senior Alauna Richardson was eighth in the girls shot put.
Sunnyvale has enjoyed its share of highlights on the state stage in recent years, and this year, had one representative in Austin, where junior Emma Tindall cleared 11-06.00 to place fifth in the 4A girls pole vault.