LEONARD — For the fourth and final time, Kelcie and Natalie Simmons, Bridget Watson and Jessi Bennett head to the state track meet. And the Lady Tigerettes hope their careers end the way they started — with the Class 3A team championship.
After winning the title as freshmen, there have been individual and relay gold medals the next two years but the big trophy eluded them both times, including as the runner-up to Hampton Prep last year by six points and a sophomore run derailed by injuries but still managed to end in a tie for fifth place.
“It’s been a roller coaster but I think we can go out with a bang,” Kelcie Simmons said.”If you’re going to be the best the timing has to be right and it feels like it right now. We’re all looking forward to it.”
With four individual region titles and two relays to back the contingent headed to Mike A. Meyers Stadium in Austin this weekend, Leonard is ready to put on another show.
“It’s been fun watching them do their thing,” Leonard head coach Rae Holden said.
As an entire athletic program, the senior class on the girls side has left an indelible mark across the board in volleyball, basketball, softball and tennis.
“Our versatility is the best part of our team,” said Watson, who is headed to Austin College for hoops. “It shows in all of athletics what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s a special bond because we’ve been together so long.”
The Tigerettes are the defending champ in the 1,600 relay, having set the 3A record with a time of 3:51.05 which broke the 1978 mark of 3:52.44 by Longview Spring Hill.
“If it does come down to the 4x400, we’re ready for that mentally. We hope it comes down to that,” Kelcie Simmons said. “It’s not a secret the relays have always been our thing.”
The 400 relay will look to improve on its seventh-place finish last year.
Natalie Simmons is the defending champ in the triple jump and was the silver medalist in the long jump while Kelcie Simmons was the state runner-up in the 100 meter dash a year ago.
Bennett, a three-time qualifier in the 800, came up just short of a medal in the race with a fourth-place finish in 2:14.54.
The Simmons twins, who signed with Duke, have combined for 18 total medals (15 gold, three silver) so far either individually or on relays.
“I’ve been saying all season I’m not going to cry when it’s over,” Natalie Simmons said. “We did have so much success.”
Bennett has three gold medals and Watson has two as part of relays the previous two years.
Joining Leonard as contenders for the team title will be defending champ Hampton Prep, East Bernard and Sunnyvale, which won the 2016 crown.
At the Class 3A Region II meet last month, Leonard won the team title with 108 points.
“Everybody’s stepped up. We get better every day,” said senior Claudia Ware, who has signed with Campbell for softball. “It pushed me all the time to be ready whenever they needed me.”
Kelcie Simmons won the 100 in 11.80 seconds and Natalie Simmons won the 200 in 24.41 seconds.
Natalie Simmons also won the region title in the triple jump at 36 feet, 11 and a quarter inches and the Simmons sisters took the top two spots in the long jump. Kelcie won at 18 feet, two and a quarter inch and Natalie was the runner-up at 18 feet, one and a quarter inch.
The 400 relay of Watson, Ware and the Simmons sisters won the region title in 47.44 seconds.
The 1,600 relay of Bennett, Kenleigh Stevens, Remi Long and Kelcie Simmons won the region title with a time of 4:01.05.
Bennett was the region runner-up and advanced to state in the 800 with a time of 2:26.
The lone disappointment was that the 800 relay, which Leonard won with a state record time of 1:39.06 last spring and was the three-time defending state champion, was fourth at regionals with a time of 1:44.
But there are still plenty of opportunties for Leonard to prove they are the best on the track one last time.