By Joseph Garcia
AUSTIN – The state’s best pure athletes flocked to Mike A. Myers Stadium over the weekend to obtain the same goal: to win.
Winning is something Liberty Hill’s track and field athletes have done all season long. And with competition at its peak, three of the five Panthers medaled at the UIL State Track and Field Meet beginning with Jadon Durity-Boatright on Friday, May 11 and ending with Susie Kemper on Saturday, May 12.
Durity-Boatright qualified for both the long and triple jumps.
His first event was the long jump beginning at 1:30 p.m. in which he placed ninth with his best jump being 21 feet-6 inches.
Later that evening, the Liberty Hill junior competed in his best event – the triple jump – and leapt to a third-place finish and a bronze medal with an attempt of 47-1/2. Liberty Hill boys track and field Coach Jimmy Duncan said Durity-Boatright’s technique is his key to success for this year and he has a good shot at becoming a State Champion next year.
“We were really pleased with everyone’s performance this past weekend,” said Duncan. “Jadon jumped well in both jumps. I have not checked on everyone, but I know of the top four in triple jump (besides Jadon), two were seniors and the other is dropping down to 2A next year. So, his outlook is good. He has worked extremely hard with Coach Headrick to better his form. It is an extremely technical event that requires a lot of coordination and timing.”
The other four Panthers were slated to challenge for a medal on Saturday beginning with senior Jessica Green in the high jump.
Green was jumping smoothly until the bar was raised to 5-6. Three misses ended her hopes of placing in the top three as her highest jump was 5-4. Green finished tied for fourth-place with Kaylyn Schultz of Celina.
Next, Kemper participated in the 800-meter run, starting in lane No. 9. After one lap she was situated in second place, but was passed up down the stretch for a fourth-place finish, clocking a time of 2 minutes 17.40 seconds.
A few minutes later, Cameron Cardwell and Andrew Waller-De la Rosa lined up for the final time as Panthers against each other in the 800-meter run.
The best friends ran a good race, giving their all. But Cardwell finished with the better result and a bronze medal with a time of 1:54.36. Waller-De la Rosa ended up placing sixth, running the 800-meter in 1:58.41.
Duncan said the two senior leaders will be dearly missed.
“It is going to be different next year without Cameron and Andrew,” he said. “We are so used to having them and the other seniors on the track being leaders, it is going to take a lot of getting used to. Both Cameron and Andrew performed Saturday like they performed in every other meet – they gave it their all. We knew each time they took to the track, we would get 100 percent. It has been a pleasure to watch them, as well as the other seniors, grow over the course of four years into young adults.”
Finally, Alabama-bound Kemper attempted to defend her title in the 1600-meter run.
However, Kemper was just edged out by Diana Moreno of Brookshire Royal by a mere .31 seconds. Moreno ran a 5:10.07 while Kemper finished at 5:10.35.
Liberty Hill girls track and field Coach Gretchen Peterson said while the results were not what they had hoped for, the big picture is what really matters.
“There was some disappointment on Saturday, but when you step back and you see what (Green and Kemper) were able to accomplish not only this year, but throughout high school, it’s pretty amazing,” said Peterson. “They are great kids, and I will miss that more than anything. They competed to the best of their ability on Saturday, and sometimes, there is just someone that does better. That’s life.”
Peterson believes Green and Kemper have made a lasting impact on the girls track and field program for the foreseeable future.
“They have handled everything with great maturity and grace,” she said. “I am so proud of them, and they have left an amazing mark on Liberty Hill track. They both helped raise the bar, and now it’s up to the underclassmen to step up and reach that bar. The results on Saturday don’t take anything away from what they have both accomplished. Susie and Jessica are great athletes and great people.”
Coach Duncan shared similar sentiments about the boys program.
“It is up to a new bunch of seniors to lead the way,” Duncan said. “We will need Jadon and the others to step into a leadership role and help us to mold the team into success. Through hard work and sacrifice, we hope to be competing at the State level again next year.”