WHITESBORO — The quartet of athletes Whitesboro is sending to the state track meet can be divided evenly. Michael Urbina and Max Merlyn began the season expecting to be there. Peyton Muntz and Sierra Parks didn’t have as confident a feeling, even if that was the ultimate goal.
But now that they are all headed to Austin to compete in the Class 3A meet at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium on Friday, it is about preparing for what they can achieve on the biggest stage.
Urbina won the Region II title in the 1,600 with a time of 4:27.76 while Merlyn was third with a time of 4:33.60, just missing out on competing at state. Both of them did advance in the 3,200 after Urbina won in 9:38.76 and Merlyn was the runner-up in 10:09.57.
“I was expecting to make it in both; that was the plan,” Merlyn said. “The mile has been my strong suit all year, so it’s disappointing but it’s definitely a good way to end my senior year making it at all.”
In the 3,200 they were well ahead of the pack — Merlyn finished 26 seconds in front of Callisburg’s John Klein for the automatic slot.
All but two of the qualifiers posted sub-10 minute times in their region performances and Urbina enters as the top seed in the 3,200 — Vanderbilt Industrial’s Kevin Baez is a little under five seconds back.
“Knowing I’m ranked where I am and knowing I can win is a great feeling,” Urbina said. “I can’t control the other guys out there and they have the same reputations I do. It’s all about who goes out there and has the best race. Leave it all out there.”
In the 1,600, Urbina has the fifth-fastest time from regionals. Sonora’s Evan Shannon is seeded first with a 4:24.18 but two other runners — Baez and Lago Vista’s Andrew Holt — are also under 4:25.
This is the third straight year Urbina has competed at state in the 3,200. He was sixth last spring with a time of 9:48.81 after also placing sixth as a sophomore. He was in position for a medal going into the final lap, sitting in third, but was unable to hold a place on the podium.
“Definitely some senior reflection — it’s my last time to wear a Whitesboro uniform and represent this town and my teammates,” Urbina said. “Whether win, podium or last, I know my parents will be proud and I tried my hardest.”
During cross-country season, Urbina finished as the state runner-up to Baez in a time of 15:34.62 that was less than five seconds off the winning pace.
Merlyn was in the top 10, claiming ninth place with a time of 16:28.08 and the Bearcats finished fourth.
“Racing at state does help. Championship racing is championship racing,” Merlyn said. “You have to run your race. I think you have to play it more strategically. You have to run hard but make sure you’re in a smart position.”
Both will run for Stephen F. Austin next year.
Muntz, a junior who transferred from Frisco Reedy, advanced to state in the 3,200 with a time of 11:51.95 at the region meet. It was an improvement of 30 seconds on her personal best. She was behind Leonard’s Audrey Shaw, who took the title in 11:48.36 and had a nearly 10-second cushion on the rest of the field to gain the second automatic berth.
“I’m just so happy to make it because it’s so hard to do it in track,” she said. “The last 800 is when I made my move and then when I got second, just had to keep going and hold my spot there.”
Muntz is seeded seventh in the race but just a few seconds from being in the top five. Holliday’s Hannah Spears has the fastest qualifying time in 11:28.60.
Muntz was 38th at the Region II meet with a time of 13:44.04 as the Lady Bearcats finished sixth, showing just how much she has improved even from the fall after really dedicating herself to the sport. She had never run the 3,200 until this spring.
“When I started in seventh grade, I said ‘this can’t be that hard’ and the first race, it was really hard,” Muntz said. “Training hard, trusting your coach and putting in the miles, doing the work.”
Parks, a senior, earned her spot at state with a third-place finish at the Region II meet in the 300 hurdles in 45.57 seconds that was good enough to be the wild card.
Atlanta’s Shevonia Smith won the region in 44.41 seconds and Howe’s Bethany Masters was the runner-up in 45.30 seconds.
Smith has the fastest qualifying time while Parks is seeded fourth despite getting just third in the region.
“I was going against the top two girls in the state. You never know with the other regions,” Parks said. “I beat Bethany at the area meet, so I knew it was going to be close.”
It is a big improvement over a year ago when she didn’t even qualify for the finals at the region meet, getting ninth in 49.78 seconds.
“I’m excited to be going. I’m not really nervous,” Parks said. “I started hurdles freshman year because I like it better than just running. As I get better opponents it’s about technique and whoever has the best form and technique is going to win that day.”