The Coleman boys state track contingent was limited to four boys and three relay teams, but that was all the Bluecats needed to claim the Class 3A team title Saturday at the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Coleman finished the day with a medal of each color to close the meet with 48 points — four more than runner-up Bruceville-Eddy, which held a 12-point lead entering the meet's final event.
"I knew if we got third place (in the 400-meter relay), we would share the title with Bruceville-Eddy, but I didn't tell the kids that," Coleman coach Weldon Thompson said. "That's not something they needed to know. I told them to go out and run the race, and they did.
"Even though we got a state championship, the kids were still disappointed they didn't win that mile relay. That's the kind of kids these are. They're never satisfied with where they're at unless they're on top, and that's what's amazing about this group of guys."
While the Bluecat athletes may have expressed some disappointment, their coach couldn't have been more pleased.
After watching his team qualify for two relays and leave empty-handed at last year's state meet, Thompson said he was proud of the way of his athletes responded this time around.
"I'm still kind of speechless," he said. "I can't say enough what these kids mean to me. It's all them. I tell them to just run fast and take care of business. Track's one of those sports where kids are going to get out what they put in.
"A state championship, that's the pinnacle. It's amazing, and I'm glad we get to bring it back to Coleman."
The Bluecats foursome of Matthew Anderson, Corder Norris, Bryson Hammonds and Jaquan Hemphill started their run to the title with a third-place finish in the 400 relay, running a time of 42.39 seconds. They were clipped in the race by champion Rockdale (42.35) and runner-up Commerce (42.36).
"Coming into the (400 relay), we were sitting in fifth, I think, and we wanted to get out and at least bring back some hardware from this race," Norris said. "We wanted to do better than we had last year. Last year, we came and were just kind of happy we were here. This year, we wanted to bring some hardware back to Coleman.
"First to third was less than .05 seconds, so we were right there with first and we got a medal, and we're happy right now."
That same group of athletes followed with a gold-medal time of 1:27.61 in the 800 relay, before closing out the meet with a 3:22.01 in the mile relay. Mineola edged the Bluecats in the final race with a time of 3:21.31.
"I'm very pleased," Thompson said while waiting for his team to be announced as the 3A state champion. "They've worked hard all year. This is a special group of kids. They do what's asked of them and they've won week in and week out, and that's what got us here. That's what's amazing to me. It's the same four kids on all four relays, and you don't find that very often."
In addition to Coleman's team title, the Big Country enjoyed substantial individual success Saturday as two 3A area athletes earned gold medals and another claimed a silver.
After finishing as the runner-up in the girls long jump on Friday, Bangs' Alex Madlock won the triple jump with a career-best effort of 39 feet, 4½ inches. Madlock trailed long jump champion Natalie Simmons of Leonard heading into her final jump, but delivered a championship performance in the clutch.
"I was nervous whenever she jumped a 38-4. I was like, ‘Dang,'" Madlock said. "She beat me yesterday in the long jump, and I was like, ‘Man, it's not going to happen this time.' So I went by myself, I took my earrings off and put my hair in a better pony tail and took my ring off and I said, ‘It's time.'
"I just took a deep breath and I got up there and made my jump. It took them forever to find out what I had really jumped because the laser thing messed up. I had my fingers crossed and I was praying, and when they called that 39 out, I just started crying. I couldn't take it. But I just thank God that I finally did it."
Shortly after Madlock's performance, the Big Country got its second gold of the day from Eastland's McKennon Cecil in the discus. Throwing for the first time at the state meet, the senior delivered a career-best throw of 157-3, winning over Whitney's Kendell Wimberly (152-10).
"I came in sitting in fourth. I was a few feet behind everybody else," said Cecil, who had never been to Austin before this week. "I knew I could do it, though, because I've been throwing good in practice. I've been working hard, so I knew I had a good shot.
"This is actually my first year on varsity, so I've really come a long way. It's a really cool experience. I'm loving it."
The area's final medal of the day from a 3A athlete came from Eastland sprinter Jessie Jacobs, who took second in the girls 200 with a time of 24.91.
"I could have done better, but I'm happy with my performance," she said. "I think my start could have been better, but considering the (direction) we were running it, I don't like running it that way, so I think that got in my head a little bit."
Three individuals and a relay team came within one spot of medaling Saturday, when Breckenridge's Shelby Lipps took fourth the girls discus (128-6), Cisco's Taylor Massey did so in the boys long jump (21-7¾) and Early's Sharday Melvin did so in the 100 hurdles (14.87). Bangs took fourth in the 400 relay (49.53) and sixth in the 800 relay (1:45.74), while the Breckenridge 400 relay team finished sixth (49.78).
Breckenridge's LaQuisha Coleman was sixth in the 200 (25.41), and Jim Ned dual-event qualifier Garrison Bluhm followed his fourth-place finish in the 3,200 on Friday (9:42.80) with a seventh-place in the 1,600 Saturday. His time of 4:37.91 in that race was a career best.
**reprinted with permission from the Abilene Reporter News.