By Taylor Grafft
AUSTIN — It was a dream come true for three of the Liberty Hill Panthers Track and Field student athletes. All the hard work, dedication, and extra hours that each of them put in this season finally paid off on Friday.
The State Track Meet. A chance to represent the school on the biggest stage in front of a large, cheering crowd at Mike Meyers Stadium. For two of the student athletes it would mark their final competition at the high school level, and for the other the start of a promising career.
Girls Head Track Coach Gretchen Peterson talked about how special the experience was for not only the three athletes that competed, but for the coaches as well.
“For the coaches, it’s just a proud moment, you are proud of them and their accomplishments, and we just get to go along for the ride,” she said. “Track is such a demanding sport, so to compete at that level and perform the way they have consistently, meet after meet, you just have to be excited for them, and support them. They deserved all the accolades and success, and fun that came with running at the State Meet, and I hope they took the time to realize how awesome that experience was for them.”
Seniors Madi Sharp and Mitchell Germann, and freshman McKynzie King all competed at the UIL State Track & Field Meet in Austin on May 9-10. Each finished in the top two of their respective events at Regionals in Lubbock to earn a spot in Austin last week.
It was the first time competing at the State Meet for all three of the Panther athletes, who later admitted that they were nervous leading up to the meet, but said they still focused on doing their best and having no regrets once it was over.
“Knowing that this was my last year to run track in high school, I wanted to make sure that when I finished my last meet, I would be able to say that I did everything I could to make this season the best it could be,” said Sharp.
On Friday morning, King competed in the Girls 3200-Meter Run. Shortly after, Germann competed in the Boys 3200-Meter Run after finishing the season as Regional Champion with a first place finish in Lubbock.
King finished in eighth place at the State Meet with a time of 12:09.87, while Germann finished in sixth place with a personal best and school record 9:44.26. Germann had previously set the record earlier in the year, but shaved eight seconds off his record at the State Meet.
Germann also competed in cross country in the fall for Liberty Hill. Germann, who qualified for State in cross country all four years of high school, finished in third place at the State Meet in Cross Country this year.
King who also ran cross country in the fall and made it to State as a freshman in both cross country and track, has an undoubtedly bright career ahead of her as she hopes to keep shaving seconds off her time and setting records at Liberty Hill.
“I had never qualified for the State Meet in track, but I’ve been to State all four years in cross country,” said Germann. “It’s a lot different, but the pressure and level of competition is the same so that experience helped with my nerves.”
At Regionals in Track, Germann nearly qualified for State in the 1600-Meter Run, but finished in third place. Germann missed qualifying and a second place finish by 0.19 seconds.
Sharp competed in the Girls High Jump on Friday afternoon after earning a second place finish at Regionals. Sharp tied for seventh with a best height of 5’2”.
“I was really nervous at the State Meet,” she said. “I think the thought of competing with the some of the top high jumpers freaked me out a little bit. I usually try really hard not to let the nerves get to me, but when you compete in such a big meet, it gets difficult to try and hide your nerves.”
Sharp said that to help her focus she enjoys listening to music before she competes in order to block out everything going on around her.
Germann said that he likes to keep the same routine he always does, but admitted he, too, was nervous before the meet.
“I always get nervous before big races. I ate my regular breakfast of chocolate chip toaster waffles,” Germann said. “I’m a creature of habit and don’t like my routine to change at all. On the way to Austin, I listened to my usual preparation music, then did my usual warm up before the race.”
Sharp, who competed in the Texas Relays earlier this year at Mike Meyers Stadium, said that experience helped her get used to her surroundings and the large crowd.
“I think that being able to compete at the Texas Relays helped me a lot,” Sharp said. “The first time I competed at the stadium, I didn’t really know where I was going and I felt lost. But competing there a second time, I knew what to expect. Competing at State with all the fans wasn’t bad at all. It’s awesome to get out on the field and to see the stands filled with people. I usually hate competing in front of big crowds, but the Texas Relays definitely helped me overcome my fear of performing in front of large crowds.”
Germann said that his favorite part of the State Meet was the large crowd and getting a chance to warm up at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium across the street from Mike Meyers.
“It was pretty exciting,” Germann said. “There’s a lot of people from all over (the state) and the stadium is big. We warmed up in DKR across the street so that was pretty cool.”
Sharp talked about how much her supporters and coaches have helped her reach this point in her career.
“My family and friends were always supportive when it came to track,” Sharp said. “My dad and mom always gave me advice, and that’s one of the things that always helped. I can’t say enough about what my coaches have meant to me. Coach Peterson, Coach Miller and Coach Junkin have all been important in my development and if not for them I’m not sure I could have done any of this.”
Germann and Sharp talked about their final high school track meet, their futures following their graduation from Liberty Hill, and whether or not they would continue to purse track in college.
“I think I’ve pretty much decided I won’t try to walk on at UT, but I still may, I don’t know,” Germann said. “It was definitely sad, but I ran as hard as I could have and prepared as well I could have and got beat by people that were just faster than me, so I don’t have any regrets and can be happy about it. That’s what makes running such a great sport — you can be competitive in it, but it’s not really about winning. You don’t have to be a winner to be a champion.”
Sharp said, “I am definitely running track in college. I have narrowed my choices to three schools, and I hope to have made a decision in the next few weeks. Even though I am running track in college, it was sad knowing that I won’t get to run with my teammates that I’ve grown up with. I’ll miss them a lot and it definitely won’t be the same without them.”
“Both Madi and Mitchell have continued to improve and mature as they have come through high school,” said Coach Peterson. “They have always worked hard, but this year there was a focus and confidence about them that was different from before. They have always had a strong work ethic, but this year, I think the realization of this being the end of the road, really helped them tune and focus. I am so proud of them and could not have asked for a better season for them.
“We have great kids here at Liberty Hill, so it’s always sad to see kids like Madi and Mitchell go, but we are very blessed to have the young ones coming back to help fill their shoes,” Peterson added. “I love my job because the kids we have are hands down the best in the state of Texas!”