Molina clinches Region III berth in 200-meters, Keng goes to new heights in pole vault

April 18, 2019

HOUSTON - At the Area track and field meet that was dominated by Humble ISD and North Shore athletes, Deer Park’s hopes for a Region III berth were being gobbled up by that group.

But amidst the numerous Deer Park athletes who saw their season come to an end Wednesday at North Shore High School, two survived the very windy day.

Sprinter Marcus Molina’s campaign in the 200-meters is alive and well and so is pole vaulter Kristen Keng’s as the pair clinched berths to next weekend’s Region III meet at Challenger-Columbia Stadium in Webster.

No two ways about it, the Deer Park contingent were in over their heads during Wednesday’s competition. Folks like Mariah Bush saw her season come to an end in the long and triple jump, finishing seventh and eighth place, respectively.

It wasn’t any better for others like Julissa Rodriguez in the discus throw, Phoebe Villarreal in the 3200-meter run, Jeremy Vitalis in the pole vault and the 800-meter duo of Anissa Garza and Robert Gonzalez. Both had to settle for seventh place in their respective races.

But in Event 30, just four events from the meet concluding, Molina gave the Deer a big-time shot in the arm.

The District 21-6A champion finished in a tight, tight pack of four regional qualifiers, three from District 21-6A and one from 22-6A.

Molina secured third place with the time of 22.67 seconds, right behind first-place winner Jarvis Miles of Humble and his 22.40 time and runner-up Ajani Carter and his 22.60. The fourth and final berth to regionals went to North Shore’s John Gentry (22.70).

But for Molina, it was a minor miracle that he did escape Area. A strain in his right quad as coach P.J. Graham described it had Molina spending more time in the trainer’s room than on the track last week. He wasn’t cleared to compete until 48 hours before the meet.

“I’m very pleased he was able to get out of Area because he had such a good run in district. We were concerned about a leg injury that popped up in district that slowed him down. He didn’t get to practice much. He was in the training room most of the time. We were really concerned about him being able to compete,” Graham said.

One could tell that Graham and his fellow coaches now have a deeper respect for Molina simply because he refused to let the season end in the trainer’s room.

“It shows the kind of kid that he is, resilient that he was, fighting through the injury. I’m very pleased and happy for him and grateful that we also get to train for another week,” Graham said.

If there were still some kinks to work out before the 200, Molina used the long jump in Event 4 and the 4 by 200 relay in Event 24 to work them out.

There really wasn’t much drama to the race. The field of eight sprinters had broken into two distinct groups by time they had made the turn towards the final 100 meters. Granted, we’re talking about a cat’s whisker between the first and second group, but it was an important whisker.

It may have been the only race all day where three Summer Creek athletes got eliminated in addition to a West Brook runner. That just didn’t happen on this day.

As for Keng’s achievement, she took advantage of just three pole vaulters from the two districts. So districts 21 and 22 will be at a slight disadvantage next week since they’ll just be sending three to regionals, while the other districts will be combining for four vaulters.

Keng and Summer Creek’s Avery Smith and Kingwood’s Megan Anglin along with Keng all cleared 9-feet-6. But Keng cleared the height first.

Who won between districts 21 and 22? In two distance races, it was District 22 by a landslide. In the 800-meter girls race, two Atascocita and two Kingwood runners shut out four District 21 runners.

Then in the 800 boys race, three Kingwood and one Summer Creek runner shut out four District 21 runners.