PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Runner Brandon McKissick helping track team bring the Firsts

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By Lance Catchings

Senior Brandon McKissick is a talented, hard-working student-athlete who has helped the Liberty Hill varsity boys’ track team to three first-place finishes this season and is steadily improving as a runner.

McKissick’s journey to his spring track success started with an extremely big decision last fall.

“I had always been a two-sport athlete,” McKissick said. “Football started last fall and went well, but I wanted my main focus this year to be in track. I went through football offseason and two-a-days, but I decided to leave football and focus on my track season.”

Not only was it an important decision for the senior to walk away from Panther football for track, but it was a surprise to his family, as well. McKissick loved his teammates and playing football, but felt he needed to do what was right for himself.

“It was a huge shocker to my family,” he said. “I had discussed it with them, but they didn’t think I would actually do it because of how much I love football. Track is where I felt I was excelling the most, so I really wanted to focus there.”

McKissick started his training to prepare for his final high school track season by joining the Leander Spartans, a club team not affiliated with the school.

“The Leander Spartans are my outside of school team,” he said. “I workout with them on the weekends and have run a couple of meets with them. I went to Texas A&M indoor and the University of Houston indoor meets with the Spartans. They have great kids on their teams. I run the open 200-meter dash and the open 400-meter dash for the Spartans.”

McKissick’s hard work over the past nine months has really started to pay off. He has posted four first-place finishes in the open 400-meter dash this season. He recently took second place in the race at the Marble Falls meet with a blazing time of 49.53. That is enough to win most meets, but he was edged out by a teammate from the Leander Spartans.

“I ran against one of my teammates this past meet, and he got me by .01 in the 400,” he said. “Me and him like to joke around a lot at practice about who is going to get who. He got me at Marble Falls, but that’s the only time we’ll face off on the track this season. Our high schools don’t meet up again this season.”

Given the results, it should come as no surprise that McKissick said the open 400 is definitely his favorite race.

“I like running the short sprints, but my favorite race is the 400-meter run,” he said. “I never really ran it until this year. My coach told me since I was running on the 4×400-meter relay team, I needed to do the open 400 as a workout. I ran it in the first meet and won almost all the meets since, so he kept me in it. I did hurdles last year, but I was always injuring my shins, ankles or hip. Those 300 hurdles last year prepared me for the open 400.”

Running a mid-49 in the open quarter a little over halfway through the season has the senior excited about the possibilities moving forward. He believes that if you love something and work hard for it, anything is possible.

“My expectations for this year did not have me doing as well as I have been doing,” he said. “I thought I would be a little bit faster than last year, running around a 51 in the open 400, because last year I ran a 52. This year, the first meet, I ran 50 and I was completely shocked. The next meet I ran another low 50 and a couple meets later I am finally down to a 49. At the Marble Falls meet, I ran a 49.5, so hopefully it keeps going down. I am shooting for that 48 now that I can see my hard work finally paying off.”

McKissick has his sights now set on the State Track Meet, and if his times keep trending the same way, he should get the opportunity

“The perfect end to my senior season would be making it to State,” he said. “Everyone tells me that I will make it if I keep working hard. I guess it has not fully hit me yet that I could do that. I never expected to go to some type of State competition and represent Liberty Hill, but if I could do that, it would be awesome.”

The senior said it’s an honor every time to line up on the track for the purple and gold.

“It is pretty great having the opportunity to represent Liberty Hill,” he said. “Representing the town I have grown up in for the last six years is an amazing feeling for me. Everyone here is so nice, and you really feel like the teachers, coaches and students are here for you when you need them.”

McKissick will get an opportunity to improve on his time once again Thursday, March 29, as the Panthers compete at Vista Ridge High School.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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