Track and Field: Only 1 meet remains before important district tourney

March 24, 2018

The high school track and field season is coming down the stretch run.

Humble’s looking for a soaring finish.

The Wildcats boys and girls track teams have one meet remaining Thursday, March 29, in Baytown before switching their focus to the all-important District 21-5A championships in April at Turner Stadium.

“It’s important because now we’re putting people in places they need to be at the district meet,” girls coach Janae Strickland said. “I have a really young team this year. We graduated four seniors last year, so for them it’s about mental toughness and preparing them for what district is going to look like.

“It’s sink or swim these next couple meets.”

Boys coach Freddie Strange also knows the importance of going into the district meet with momentum.

But his priority’s on keeping his athletes upright.

“Right now, the most important thing is staying healthy,” he said. “We have (one) more meet. We have … Baytown, and the kids get antsy to go out there and run fast because the weather’s great, but my biggest concern is us staying healthy. I stress all year the most important race is the district race.”

That’s the one that determines who they’ll send on to the biggest races of the postseason – area, regionals and state.

If they don’t survive district, they won’t have a shot at medaling down the road.

The 21-5A meet, set for April 10 and 12, is where Arianna West and Jordan Booker began their journeys to state last year, making them the Wildcats’ first state track and field qualifiers in four years.

The girls hadn’t sent anyone to state in 10 years, Strickland said.

“That was really big,” she said.

“It put Humble back on the map, as a powerhouse in track, and showed the community … we are a force to be reckoned with.”

West is dealing with an injury this season.

She competed well early in the year, taking third in the 100-meter dash at the Spring Relays, and second Feb. 24 at the Sam Mosley Relays at Turner, posting a time of 12.83 seconds in her top event.

Summer Creek’s Tianna Randle was first that day with at 12.38.

But West tweaked a hamstring at Sam Mosley, prompting Strickland to shut her down for the next two meets, including the Falcon Relays on March 8, and spring break, giving her a month to rest up.

Strickland expected West to return Saturday, March 24, at Prairie View.

“It’s her expectation, and my expectation, that she gets back (to state) and gets on the medal stand,” Strickland said.

West finished third in the 100 in last year’s Class 5A meet with an 11.86.

Booker placed seventh in the 200 at state, running a 21.72. Strange said the weather’s conspired to keep the senior from topping that time so far this season, but he’s on track to make a strong push late.

“He was disappointed because he didn’t PR (last year at state),” Strange said. “He didn’t run as fast as he ran at regionals (21.39). But I was excited … because he hit his goal of making it to Austin.

“When you’re a junior and you make it to Austin, you always have next year. You always have your senior year.

“So my goal is to get him back to Austin and medaling this year.”

The boys team is a young group, too, but he’ll still have plenty of help at the district and regional meets.

Sophomore Ian Gilmore is the district leader in the 400 through the first half of the season, sophomore Phillip Green is pacing the district in the 800, and junior Jaden Johnson is helping all over the track.

″(Johnson’s) a special kid because he can run … the 100, 200 and the 400,” Strange said. “He’s the anchor on the 4x1 and he also runs a leg on the 4x4.

“If I had to give an award for the most improved, I would give it to Jaden Johnson.”

For the girls squad, West is expected to join senior Chantranise Lane, sophomore T’Neal Wiley and freshman Akayma Kennedy on a competitive 800 relay that’s coming together at the right time; and Lane, Wiley, Jade Duffey and Tristen Wheeler are expected to form a brand new 1,600 relay.

″(The relays) are really big, especially those two,” Strickland said.

“They’re really big on points, and for setting the stage, because we had a phenomenal 4x1 for the last two years, but the way the athletes are going, we’re moving toward the 4x2 and 4x4 being pretty dominant.”

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer who can be reached at jasonrmcdaniel@outlook.com.