AUSTIN — The only thing missing was a state team title and the Leonard Tigerettes might disagree that anything was missing.
A year after injuries hurt their chances to repeat as Class 3A champs, Leonard did just about everything a state champ would do. They won a pair of relays in conference-record times. They picked up three individual medals (a gold and two silvers) and earned points in all but one event.
It totaled up to 70 points, a number that in just about any other year would be enough to be at the top of the standings. But this year it ended up making Leonard the state runner-up to Uplift Hampton Prep, which won the crown with 76 points after dropping down from 4A — and earned third place there a year ago — in the latest realignment.
“You have two really elite teams performing at a high level,” Leonard head coach Rae Holden said. “We made them earn it. We were going to have to earn it. I’m very proud of this group.”
Leonard capped the meet with a record victory in the 1,600 relay and was state champs in the event for the second time in three years. The quartet of Jessi Bennett, Kelcie Simmons, Katherine Thern and Natalie Simmons bolted to a big lead and won with a time of 3:51.05, which broke the 3A record of 3:52.44 set by Rosebud-Lott in 1978. Wall also broke that mark but was still a distant second at 3:52.25.
Thern was the newcomer to the group as the third leg.
“I was on JV last year and now I’m a state champion,” she said.
The Tigerettes had to win that race to have a chance at the team title and needed Uplift Hampton to finish fifth or lower. But a surge on the final lap lifted them to the bronze medal and the overall crown. Altair Rice was back in third with 38 points.
“Overall our goal was to win state so that’s disappointing,” Bennett said. “But we still did really well.”
For the third straight year Leonard won the 800 relay and did so with a dominating record time of 1:39.06. The quartet of Bridget Watson, both Simmons sisters and Bennett broke the old 3A mark of 1:40.08 set by Rosebud-Lott in 2014.
“I’m never worried,” Watson said about running with this group. “I don’t ever have anything to worry about.”
The runner-up, Goliad, took silver at 1:41.54.
“I wanted to beat Goliad because they had the fastest (qualifying) time,” Kelcie Simmons said. “We wanted the record. We wanted in the 1:30s.”
The 400 relay of Watson, Katie Gauntt, Claudia Ware and Natalie Simmons placed seventh with a time of 48.91 seconds and was unable to get any points. They were 0.16 seconds from getting two points in sixth place and 0.61 seconds from the four points for fifth.
Uplift Hampton was able to make up for the lack of an 800 relay by winning the 400 relay in a 3A record time of 45.84 seconds, smashing the old mark of 47.18 set three years ago by Rosebud-Lott.
Kelcie Simmons earned the silver in the 100 meter dash in a race where she and the champion, Uplift Hampton’s Daja Gordon, would have broken the Conference 3A record but the wind speed kept it from counting in the books.
“We’ve gone back and forth a lot. That’s like the sixth time that’s happened,” Simmons said. “It’s always 0.1 or 0.2.”
Gordon won at 11.52 seconds to just edge Simmons at 11.53 seconds. The 3A mark is 11.62 seconds set by Hamlin’s Tiffany Green in 2000. Sunnyvale’s Caira Pettway was third at 11.92 seconds with the bronze.
“She’s fast. She ran a solid race,” Simmons said. “It was good to be able to break the record, if the wind was legal.”
It was the second individual medal of her career, to go with a silver in the long jump last spring.
Natalie Simmons won the state title in the triple jump on Saturday morning as the Region II contingent swept the podium.
“All three girls that won medals were from our region and we were back and forth. I knew I had to jump well,” Simmons said. “It boosts your confidence if you compete with them before state.”
She took gold at 38 feet, two and three quarters inches and won by nearly a foot. Five of her six jumps all cleared 37 feet and she had the top four marks. Simmons never trailed after her second attempt at 37 feet, 11 and a quarter inch.
“Get a big jump in the beginning and have them chasing you,” Simmons said. “Put the pressure on them.”
Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill’s Michae’lann DiMaggio was the runner-up at 37 feet, three inches, briefly taking the lead on her second jump, and Pettway took bronze at 37 feet and three quarters of an inch.
It was the second individual state title in her career to go with a long jump title as a freshman. She flip-flopped her performance from two years ago, when she won the long jump and was the runner-up in the triple jump. An injury last year kept her from competing in either event.
Natalie Simmons started things off with a silver medal in the long jump on Friday night.
“To come back from my injury and with such a good field, I’m really excited to even medal,” Simmons said.
She put plenty of excitement into the event with her last attempt, the second-to-last overall, by leaping 19 feet, three and a quarter inch to move from third to second. The difference was that quarter of an inch over Goliad’s Amaya Brown, who went 19-3 the round earlier to put pressure on Simmons.
Both were chasing Pettway, the defending champ, whose second attempt of 19 feet, four and a half inches let her retain her crown. Pettway did that after Simmons opened with a 19 foot, three quarters jump to take a brief lead.
They were the only three to go over 18 and a half feet and Simmons saved her top effort at the right moment.
“I don’t know why but for some reason my last jump ends up my best,” said Simmons, who won her gold on the final jump in 2015. “I just get better every time and this time I needed to be.”
Bennett came up just short of a medal in the 800 with a fourth-place finish in 2:14.54. The bronze medal went to Little River Academy’s Jenna Brazeal at 2:14.37. Edinburg IDEA Quest’s Valery Tobias won in 2:13.08, 0.2 seconds off the 3A record time.
That finish added four points to Leonard’s team total as they tried to chase down Uplift Hampton.