LUBBOCK– It was a familiar look at the Region I-4A track and field meet this weekend, which was great news for one Canyon ISD girls team.
However, it was also an unfamiliar look, which was even better news for a CISD boys team.
This was a blend which led to CISD schools teams sweeping the boys and girls points titles at PlainsCapital Park Lowrey Field. For the Canyon girls, the beat continued.
Canyon defended its team title in most convincing fashion, finishing with 135 points. That was a whopping 58 points ahead of fellow CISD school Randall in second place.
“I really didn’t keep up with points today to be honest,” Canyon coach Ray Baca said. “We have so many kids who I feel have a chance to be competitive at the state meet from one race to the next. Our motto at this point with girls who do multi events is the next race is the most important race of the year. Everybody we felt like was going to get out did. Today was just a great day for us as a program.”
For the established CISD schools, the day couldn’t have gone any better. In the boys standings, CISD was also 1-2, only the opposite from the girls.
Randall, which dropped down from Class 4A after UIL realignment last year, won the boys team title by the narrowest of margins over Canyon. The Raiders finished with 60 points while Canyon had 59.
“I knew we would be in the hunt if some guys did like they were supposed to,” Randall boys coach Tim McCune said. “I knew Canyon is a hard group to beat. They’re district companions we race with week in and week out. I just told the guys (Friday) night, everybody pull their weight and see what happens in the end.”
What happened was a lot of good things for the CISD schools. Here’s a list of the highlights
Winfrey triples down
It was no surprise that the Canyon girls got a huge supply of points from senior Abree Winfrey, who will compete at the University of Kansas next year. Winfrey made sure to say goodbye to region competition in style by taking part in three victories.
Winfrey won the 800 meters, 300 hurdles and anchored the winning 1600 relay team to close the day and affirm Canyon’s supremacy over the field in no uncertain terms.
“We had a great day,” Winfrey said. “There’s obviously some things we can improve on but it was a pretty good day. I think I had some good races with some good competition and I’m happy with how it went.”
Winfrey’s toughest competition came in the 800 from freshman teammate Addyson Bristow. She had to fight mightily to hold on for victory, as she finished with a time of 2 minutes, 13.51 seconds, nipping Bristow at 2:13.58, as qualified for the state meet.
“These past couple of meets we’ve been running together,” Winfrey said. “I love having her right here with me. It definitely pushes me to go harder and we’re going to do some big things at state.”
Bristow’s performance was no fluke. She also finished second in the 400 behind Krum’s Maggie Neal, making her a double state qualifier.
Winfrey also topped her qualifying time by winning the 300 hurdles in 44.51. She capped her big day by anchoring the 1600 relay team including Tia Glynn, Brooklyn Kinsey and Bristow with a time of 3:58.76.
It couldn’t have been more appropriate that Winfrey brought it home in the relay to put an exclamation point on the team title.
“It was most definitely symbolic,” Winfrey said. “Crossing the finish line it hit me that this is my last regional meet. It’s kind of emotional and sad, but I’m super happy and couldn’t have asked it to end in a better way.”
Dickinson vaults back to state
Like Winfrey, Canyon senior Kashlee Dickinson cruised to the state meet by dominating the pole vault. Dickinson didn’t enter the competition until most most of the other vaulters were eliminated and she stood tallest at the end of the day with a vault of 12 feet, 9 inches to win the gold for the second straight year.
As a prohibitive favorite in the event, Dickinson chose to pass over the lower heights until the bar reached 11-6 and the rest of the competition had dropped like flies. Dickinson easily cleared 11-6, a height nobody else could negotiate, giving her a fairly pain free win.
“I think the first jump is the most pressure because you don’t know if you’re going to come in last,” Dickinson said. “I just had to make it over that first bar to go to state, and that was the most fun.”
Dickinson continued vaulting to see if she could set a personal record but topped out at 12-9 after entering the meet with a qualifying height of 13-7.
A minimal effort got Dickinson a gold and a trip to the state meet. Despite her dominance over the rest of the field, she’s not entirely satisfied.
“I’m not as happy as I’d like to be today with my jump, but it pushes me that much more to get a good mark at state,” Dickinson said. “I wish I could have jumped better but I like this meet. This is the first time I haven’t PR’d at this meet.”
In the long run, Stuart wins again
Junior Hannah Stuart joined teammates Winfrey and Dickinson as a repeat winner at the region meet. She swept the distance events in Lubbock, winning the 3200 on Friday in 11:08.01 and taking the 1600 on Saturday in 4:57.77, almost 22 seconds ahead of her nearest pursuer, Canyon teammate Avery Brown.
In the 1600, there was little doubt Stuart was going to take over the race about halfway through the first lap.
“I was so happy because it started a little slow,” Stuart said. “There was no way I was going to take it out too fast because I wanted something left at the end. I think starting slower helped me because I finally beat my best time of 4:58. That was my goal.”
Stuart entered both events as a big favorite on paper and lived up to it on the track. Such a status might put pressure on competitors, but it didn’t bother Stuart.
“I kind of like it,“ Stuart said. “No matter how others perceive it, I just go out there and try to do my best and block everything out and run.”\
Baker was cooking
If there was an MVP for the Randall boys, it was senior sprinter Nathan Baker. Had it not been for Baker’s two furious finishes, not only would Randall not have had two berths at the state meet, but a region title wouldn’t have happened.
In Baker’s first event of the day, he anchored the 400-relay team including Collin Miller, Shaquorie Butler and Tryston Sanchez. Baker stormed to the finish line after getting the baton, giving Randall a second-place finish with a 42.60, edging Gainesville for the second spot in the state meet.
That was just a warm-up for Baker’s performance in the 100. Baker and Gainesville’s Ja’Vaun Hendricks went neck and neck toward the tape, and Baker leaned at the last second, resulting in a photo finish. It wasn’t until the scoreboard revealed that Baker ran a 10.64 to a 10.65 by Hendricks that it ensured he got the gold.
“In track and field it’s always a game of inches, so I tell myself stay relaxed, stay patient and it’s going to finish how it finishes,” Baker said. “Even if I finish second, I knew I was going to state. I wouldn’t say my start’s the best, but my recovery speed is super good.”
Fernandez goes long for two wins
Canyon’s girls aren’t the only runners on campus who excel at the longer distances. Like his girls counterpart Stuart, sophomore Ryan Fernandez won the two longest events in the boys meet.
Fernandez notched his first trip to the state meet on Friday, winning the 3200 in 9:53.59, beating fellow sophomore teammate Lathan Lewter by almost five seconds. In the 1600 on Saturday, Fernandez proved that was no fluke, taking an early lead and fairly coasting to victory in 4:27.17, over seven seconds faster than his qualifying time.
He had enough to hold off San Elizario’s Christopher Moreno, whom he beat by 1.74 seconds.
“I kind of came into it hoping to stay with whoever was in the lead for about the first 600, and then that last 1,000 I made a surge and no one could match it,” Fernandez said. “It means a lot to me. Last year I came in eighth here so I’m very happy to be where I am right now.”
Williams makes history for West Plains
Early in the day, West Plains freshman Brycen Williams made history by becoming the school’s first region champion and qualifier for the state meet. Williams won the boys high jump with a leap of 6-5 for the school’s first regional gold medal.
“I thought I was going to do a lot better, but I’m pretty happy with what I did,” Williams said. “As a freshman it’s crazy to wind up winning. I’m going to have to work on my craft to get better, and that’s really it.”
Regardless of what happens from here on out, Williams can always claim to be his school’s first state meet qualifier.
“It means a lot to be the first person from here to be able to go to state,” Williams said. “We still have to girls to go too.”
The top two finishers in each event qualify for the UIL Class 4A state track meet set for May 11-13 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin. For a look at the full results from the Region I-4A meet please click https://www.spatotrack.us/results/highschool/2023/lubbreg/