MELISSA — The senior sees his chance to close out a career with a a second straight medal. The freshmen see the start of their careers and wonder what medals could be coming.
This is the intersection at the state track meet this weekend for a trio of Melissa Cardinals.
Cole McCraw takes flight in the Class 4A high jump with expectations to return to the podium.
Judson Greer will run in the 3,200 and 1,600 while Kaylee Lewis is in the 100 and 200 meter dashes with their first taste of high school competition ending at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
For McCraw, he will be challenged to medal in his last performance as a Cardinal. The defending champion, Stephenville’s Blake Aragon, and the silver medalist, Navasota’s Ronnie Jackson, are back in the field and the top qualifying effort belongs to Cleveland Tarkington’s Cole McLawchlin at six feet, 11 inches.
Seven of the nine qualifying heights were at least six feet, six inches.
“It’s a really good field but there’s a lot of kids that can get nervous,” McCraw said. “Last year there were kids who jumped 6-7, 6-8 and went out at 6-4. It’s unpredictable.
McCraw earned the bronze a year ago by clearing six feet, five inches and knew after the third round of jumps he’d be guaranteed a medal. Since then he hasn’t been complacent and won the 4A Region II title at 6-6 on a tie-breaker over Nathan Johnson of Wills Point.
“You always have to compete. I wasn’t trying to stay at 6-5, 6-6. I’ve been trying to get better,” said McCraw, who is trying to match the school record of 6-7 set by Dean Youngblood. “I have a medal from last year but it’s about pushing myself to jump higher and get better. I’d love to join Dean’s name on the wall.”
Even as a freshman, Greer not only has some state experience but a medal as well after claiming third at the 4A cross country meet in the fall, getting onto the podium by 0.32 seconds.
“It’s a pretty similar feeling. They’re the biggest meets of the year. It’s similar training but it’s different strategy-wise,” Greer said. “On the days that are hard, you think how great it would be to stand on the podium.”
He is in position to medal in both of his events — he is seeded second (4:25.17) behind Kaufman’s Christian Rivera at 4:23.66 in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 (9:47) behind another freshman, San Elizario’s Edwin Gomez, who was the 4A cross country champ, at 9:43.38. Rivera was fourth in each event in 2017 and was the runner-up in cross country.
“Obviously everybody’s hoping for gold. I hope to still shave a few seconds at state in the 3,200,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll think I like the mile better and then I’ll say I like the two mile better. For some people four laps is a lot but for a distance runner it feels kinda short.”
Greer is following in the distance footsteps of Elijah Mackey, who won silver in both long-distance races as a senior last spring.
“When I saw him do that, it inspired me a little because we’re good friends,” Greer said. “I think I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get one medal. I’ve trained well enough to get one and I think I can perform at the top level.”
Lewis advanced to state as a freshman in the sprints with a pair of runner-up finishes at the Region II meet behind Dallas Carter’s Sha-Carri Richardson, who is the defending state champ in both events and set the Class 4A record in the 100 last spring.
“I knew I had a good chance because my times lined up behind Sha-Carri and she’s got the fastest times,” Lewis said. “If I could be right there in the 100 I knew I’d be there in the 200 as well.”
Lewis is seeded fifth in the 100 with a time of 12.19 seconds and third in the 200 with a time of 24.66 seconds.
She comes from a fast family — older sister Karrington, who runs for Abilene Christian, was eighth in the 100 as a senior last year and also ran on a pair of state-qualifying mile relays in her career. Kaylee was in the stands to watch and now ready to compete on the same track.
“I’m more comfortable because I’ve been there before but I compete in big meets with summer track so it’s not that big of a jump,” she said. “Definitely want to medal. That’s my goal — get on the podium. As long as I PR and do my best, that’s pretty good for a freshman.”
Lewis was almost joined at state by her brother Kennedy, a junior, who was third in the 200 at the region meet and missed the automatic berth by two-tenths of a second.
“We’ve all been running since were five years old. It’s gotta be in the genes,” Lewis said. “I felt bad for him. He had a good chance to make it.”