Albarran, Diaz prepare for State Track Meet
By Lance Catchings
Senior Alex Albarran and sophomore Gabriel Diaz are long-time teammates and friends. At the 4A Regional Track Meet at Sam Houston State University that took place April 27-28, the teammates swept the top two spots in the 800-meter run to advance to the State Track Meet. Albarran won the race in a time of 1:59.31 and Diaz was second in 2:00.61.
Liberty Hill Coach Kim Holt said both runners, who also compete in cross country, have done an outstanding job this season.
“The 800-meter run is a tough race,” Holt said. “These two guys have the speed and toughness to compete and do well at the 800. I am so proud of what they have accomplished at the Regional Meet. They have worked so hard this year. I can’t wait to see what they do at the State Meet.”
Albarran said he trained all year for that moment, so he put it all on the line.
“I knew I didn’t want Regionals to be my last,” Albarran said. “There are 15 other runners, and it is a lot of pressure knowing that anything could happen. As a sophomore, I went to Regionals two years ago in the 1600-meter run and got shut down. Coming back this year, I was nervous but confident.
Albarran has worked hard all season to break the sub-two-minute mark in his 800 and finally hit his goal at Regionals.
“I got the 1:59 and finally broke the two-minute barrier,” he said. “The day before the race I got nervous, and that night it was hard to sleep. I told myself to stay calm and that I had worked to be there. I calmed down before the race and felt really good. Going in, I could give it my all or be done, and that would all be on me. I was ready to compete that day and the results showed.”
For someone accustomed to running longer distances, the 800 grew quickly on the senior.
“This is a total change of perspective from what I usually run,” Albarran said. “My whole running career, I really liked the 1600-meter run. I always thought that was the race I would run at State. I had no clue that I was going to qualify this year for the 800. Winning Regionals as the 800-meter champion and everything that followed happened for a reason. You can think you have everything planned out, but it can change in the blink of an eye.”
As the senior gears up for the State Meet, he knows there are no guarantees. The athletes have roughly two weeks to prepare for the meet held May 11-12 at The University of Texas.
“I will have to compete at the State Meet,” Albarran said. “The rest of the runners are seniors, besides my teammate Gabe (Diaz). I am going for a podium finish. I will work hard these last two weeks and then I’ll be ready to run my last race of high school. It’s been an honor to run track for Liberty Hill.”
This will be Diaz’ first appearance at the State Track Meet, and the sophomore plans to take it all in. Diaz said his teammate, Albarran, helped give him a familiar presence before the Regional Final.
“Heading into regionals, my only focus was to push into the top two finishers, no matter how to do it,” Diaz said. “It was important for me to figure out how to run my race. Alex was also a calming presence for me, since he is a senior and has done this before. It helped me relax and kept me focused the whole time.”
The transition from longer distances to the shorter, fast pace of the 800 was not easy for Diaz, either, but his adjustments paid off.
“It was a very hard transition from the longer races, where you have to pace to the 800,” he said. “An 800 is on-the-go, thinking how to run your race fast. It is always a sprint, and there is never a time to breath and relax. Coach Holt and Alex have done a lot to teach me how to run that race, because I had never run it before this year. Qualifying for State as a sophomore is almost overwhelming, but I am very grateful. Going to State has always been a goal, and I didn’t know how I would get there, but I did.”
Diaz said that although he and Albarran have a great off-the-track friendship, between the lanes it is all business.
“Having Alex helped me a lot at the Regional,” he said. “We almost have a little brother, big brother relationship with him as the big brother. We always compete hard against each other at practice, no matter the race. We knew if we wanted go far this season, we needed to compete hard against one another.”
Diaz plans to leave it all on the track come race day and warned his teammate to keep an eye out for him.
“Qualifying was a surreal experience, so State is a no-lose situation for me,” he said. “There are no track meets left after this. It will also be Alex’s last race, so this will be my last chance to try and beat him. If I am going to State, I am going all out. It’s my last race of the year, so I’m going to do everything I can to try and win.”