Plano East track

Plano East senior Tiriah Kelley, second from left, won three gold medals at Saturday's Region I-6A meet.

Just 14 months after winning the first-ever district championship in their history, the Flower Mound girls track and field team are Class 6A state champions.

The Lady Jaguars didn't miss a beat in assembling the encore following their landmark 2021 campaign, bottling the success from their state title win in cross country from the fall and developing a formula that no program in 6A could match during this year's track postseason.

That remained the case Saturday from Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin, where Flower Mound totaled eight medals and compiled 68 points to finish comfortably atop the 6A standings and hoist the first state championship in program history.

"It was pretty emotional. For as long as I've been at Flower Mound, I remember how long we spent searching for that first state title in cross country," said Andrew Cook, Flower Mound head coach. "We had gotten second and third quite a bit before winning these last two, but to get a win like that in track is just incredible. I wasn't sure if we'd ever do something like that at Flower Mound, but to see it all come together with the way the kids competed in their events was amazing."

It's a recipe that Flower Mound has adhered to all season, having picked up meet wins at the district, area and regional levels. The Lady Jaguars stayed on course against the best in the state, leaning on their distance-running depth to lead the way.

Of Flower Mound's 68 points, 58 were accrued in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Not only did the Lady Jaguars win all three events, they swept all three spots on the podium in both the mile and two-mile.

The Lady Jaguars performed to expectations in both races, headlined by a record-breaking finish to Natalie Cook's historic senior year. Cook, who celebrated her 19th birthday on Saturday, began her day by breaking the state-meet record in the 3,200 with a 9:48.25, shattering the previous mark by nearly 10 seconds.

Later that night, Natalie notched another meet record after running a 4:40.29 to win the 1,600 — a fitting coda to a season where she won individual and team state championships in cross country, followed by multiple national championships and recognition as the Gatorade National Cross Country Player of the Year.

"It's hard to put into words. I'm so proud of her and all the work she has put into this. There's a lot of stress that goes into it when you're not only supposed to win but maybe even break records as well," coach Cook said. "It was just great to see her out there competing and having fun with her friends. To win two state titles and win the triple crown of distance running — cross country, the 1,600 and 3,200 — was a great way for her to finish her career with us at Flower Mound."

 

Kelley, Lady Panthers rack up medals

Plano East made the most of its time at the state track meet, finishing top two in all four events it qualified for on Saturday. That included 36 points totaled for the Lady Panthers, good for third in the overall team standings.

Senior Tiriah Kelley had a hand in all three of her team's races, including a long-awaited pair of gold medals won in her final high school meet. Kelley cemented her place as the fastest woman in 6A, taking first in both the 100 (11.40) and 200 (23.06). According to the Texas Track and Field Coaches Association, Kelley's time in the 200 was good for the third fastest in state history.

"It's something that has been on my mind for almost six years, thinking back to when I started hearing about [Kelley] in middle school," said Robert Reed, East head coach. "She has all the talent in the world and it's just about getting her to push herself and trust what we're doing. She's represents our team so well, not just on the track and personally she's such a great kid. This couldn't have happened to a better, more deserving person."

Kelley also ran the anchor leg on the Lady Panthers' 4x100 relay, teaming with seniors Kaylee Moody, Kaley Qualls and junior Janiya Richardson to finish in second place with a season-best time of 45.38.

On the boys side, East senior Aiden Hayes earned a trip to the podium after placing second in the high jump at 6-8.

"We always say that we want bring the vans back heavier than when we left. I think the girls were definitely motivated for this one," Reed said. "On our 4x100 relay, three of those four girls are seniors and all of them had state meet experience, and even though we came in ranked fourth and a lot of other schools had already broken 46, we felt like we still hadn't run our best race."

Plano West senior Hudson Heikkinen can relate, running two personal-record times in his final high school meet. He had a silver medal to show for one of those performances after clocking a 4:08.47 to place second in the 1,600, which came after he began the day running a 9:09.24 to take sixth in the 3,200.

Teammate and senior Jayden Louis-Charles took fifth overall in the triple jump at 47-7 3/4.

 

Allen, Coppell, Prosper athletes impress

Coppell junior Sky Schuller made history on Saturday in her pursuit of a state title in the pole vault. But so did Tomball Memorial's Molly Haywood.

Schuller matched her personal record in the event by clearing 14 feet on her final attempt Saturday at state, breaking the state meet record of 13-9 1/4 set the day prior by Junction's Ella Strickland. Haywood then cleared 14-0 on her last try at the height and then went on to eclipse 14-3 to win the hotly contested 6A girls final.

Schuller finished second at state in the pole vault for the second year in a row, improving on the 13-6 she cleared last year as a sophomore. She added a sixth-place finish in the high jump as well, clearing 5-4.

District 5-6A rivals Allen and Prosper both made their ways to the podium during their latest run through state as well.

Prosper junior Lauren Lewis' first-ever trip to state culminated in a first-place finish in the 400, running a 52.54 that was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the PR of 53.92 she clocked at regionals. Lewis went unbeaten in the 400 on the season.

Senior Aubrey O'Connell, meanwhile, finished on the podium in the 800 for the second straight year after placing second in the event with a 2:09.06. Teammate and junior Kayla Watson came away with a bronze medal in the long jump, placing third at 19-10.

Allen enjoyed a busy turnout at state, including a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles for junior Sidney Green. She did so in photo-finish fashion, mustering a 42.18 that was one-hundredth of a second faster than San Antonio Reagan's Taylen Wise in fourth place at 42.19.

Allen wound up on the other side of that equation in the 4x100 relay where the team of junior Korey Mosley, senior Tsegaya Fazarro, senior Sign Shuva and freshman Jonathan Simms ran a 40.29 for fourth place. They were edged by one-hundredth of a second by the relay team from Alvin Shadow Creek at 40.28.

Two of those runners were busy elsewhere on Saturday. Simms ran to sixth place in the 400 at 47.78 and Fazarro logged seventh in the 200 at 21.50.

On the girls' side, the 4x400 relay of freshman Aaniyah Conley, senior Lauren Taylor, sophomore Sahara Tasker and Green placed sixth at 3:49.05, and senior Desiree Akaolisa posted sixth in the shot put with a 41-10 1/2.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter. Email him with sports story suggestions at mwelch@starlocalmedia.com.

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