WESLACO – It is the most special of meets from this most interesting of sports, so if one cannot find gobs of fascinating subplots and stories at the Meet of Champs, one is in the wrong business.
As always, the city has got some terrific distance runners, though the traditional tectonic plates are beginning shift ever so slightly. The EHS girls are in the midst of another fecund period, having produced a bevy of college-bound thinclads in recent springs with two more on the way. North has got a stable of tough, little kids who can compete, but the wild card in 2011 is Econ. The Lady Jags are putting together one of their best campaigns in recent memory.
Taken in turn, these three chapters of the Meet of Champs saga; the event is always good for some poignant historical recollections, and it brings the Valley’s Best to the same track for one day.
Audrie Vela is part of the new EHS history, as she signed a scholarship agreement with Texas A&M-Commerce a couple of weeks back. Outgoing and lively, she is a born runner who is set to do cross country and track at Commerce, more than 600 miles from home.
When told that East Texas is excellent country music territory, she brightened, though with this upbeat and fun-loving senior, it’s always bright where she lives.
“I started having the passion for this about sophomore year, and it just went from there,” said Vela, who will work in the 800 in college along with CC. “Before then, it was just a sport and I figured that after high school I would just move on.”
Under the tutelage of The Guru, hard-driving Tencha Lancaster, Vela has turned that passion into money for college, and says that she and her parents are of the same mind: going away for school will be a marvelous opportunity, an adventure.
“I have lived a lot of places, including Oklahoma City,” she relayed. “So the idea of leaving home to try something new doesn’t bother me, I actually look forward to it.”
Lancaster, who praised the senior strider’s work ethic, academic ability, and personality, has a secondary, ulterior motive in sending Vela to the big time.
“It is a reflection on the program for her to be able to go up there and make,” she said, noting that a gaggle of the Galloso Sisters, plus this year’s star, Beckah Rodriguez, are helping put EHS on the map, creating a dependable pipeline to the next level. “We want the college coaches to know that we have talent down here, sometimes it’s hard to get any more than a passing look because we’re so far away. But with Audrie moving on to represent us, we feel good about that. She’s just a great kid all the way.”
WALKING THE WALK
Over at North, Coach Rene Saenz is a happy camper these days, because his girls have fulfilled the potential they showed coming into the schedule. The Lady Coogs have finished first or second at every meet in 2011, battling through injuries to keep the momentum going.
“We challenged them early on to see if they could follow up some of their earlier successes,” he explained. “And by and large they have really come through.”
As stated, the squad has point-scorers to burn in the long races, and its sprint relay team has run well all season long. And then there’s Kory Lipscomb, a lanky sophomore who has become a highly competitive high jumper this spring.
Lipscomb, the younger sister of former North all-sports queen Katy Lipscomb, started with a bang, clearing 5-2 in her first meet. Though she has cooled a bit these days, the sky is the limit for this athletic newcomer.
“Kory has run into what every newcomer experiences,” Saenz suggested, explaining that “ignorance is bliss” for the beginning track athlete. “Now she understands a little more about what it takes to achieve your goals at the varsity level, she’s dealt with some nervousness, and I feel like she is ready to have a super district meet for us.”
Lipscomb spent the latter part of the high jump finals Saturday watching the top two competitors jump off, and appears to be a real student of the sport.
“She has the great bloodlines, so I think that in time she will be one of the best jumpers in the Valley,” said her coach.
Lipscomb has no problem with self-critique, something that is not always the case with novices. She thinks she has been doing “bad” lately and is determined to iron out the kinks. Saenz knows better, and has worked with the tall and springy comer to develop the mental side of the sport along with the physical. He is very excited about her future, and so is she.
TIME TO SHINE
While the Econ boys have constructed many fruitful years under the patient mentoring of Doug Erickson, the girls have only recently emerged from lean times. But with a Magnificent Seven of quality kids in the program, Selena Brown is fired up about the chances her girls could make some noise at district April 12 and 14.
“We are at the point where we can count on all of them to be there, day after day, putting the time in and totally committing to the effort,” said Brown, who’s got some bona fide distance performers like Joanna Rivera to work with.
Econ can count on superstar Leigha Brown, who is stronger and tougher every meet, to score heavy points. The relays have been better this year than ever, and captured the 1600 race at Weslaco, and when the Lady Jags won the Border Olympics team title, Brown knew it was going to work out well.
“We were able to get first there, by the grace of God, long story,” said the coach, who has been able to help her admirable ethic rub off on the predominantly underclassman group. “Now we just have to be consistent every week, and continue to push ourselves. So far, so good, we are competitive, we work hard, and we’ve had a lot of fun with these girls.”
They may have gotten her name horribly wrong, but at least they got the time right. Jenyse Vazquez, or “Genisee” according to the official pronunciation, steamed to a Valley best time of 2:19.86 in taking the 800 at the Meet of Champs. She came around the last turn in a strong second and only a fool would have imagined that Vazquez’ strength and legendary kick would not take over.
Rodriguez of EHS and Rivera of Econ finished in the top five, and the 31-5A meet should bring a super battle between those three city luminaries.