It had to be tough last year at regionals, when he thought he’d advanced to state only to find out minutes later that he’d been misinformed.
But following that distressing moment, after high-jumping 6-8 but missing the top two by one scratch, Eli Abrego didn’t pout or hang his head. Instead, when it was settled, and he was third and not second as had been previously suggested, the rangy defending 31-5A champ congratulated the kid who got runner-up, telling him to “have fun at state.”
That is the mindset with which Abrego approaches the upcoming meet and beyond, stressing that when one gets mad in field events, it’s over.
“That’s what you don’t want to do, get mad,” he said during a workout at EHS last week in preps for the District Meet to be held April 12 and 14. “You really just have clear your mind, and jump.”
The star jumper is philosophical about his sport, and can crack wise with the best. Noting that his father, Eliseo Jr., a former Bobcat athlete, says that when jumpers see the bar, they get intimidated, Abrego, who wears glasses, had a ready quip.
“I don’t jump with glasses on,” he grinned. “So I don’t necessarily even see the bar!”
He’s done this taxing event since seventh grade at South, and now Abrego is ready to have his best postseason yet. He went to regionals as a freshman, suffered through a down sophomore year he blames on “my pride,” and last season came oh, so close to the state meet in Austin. Having cleared 6-6 earlier in 2011, he is now working on fine-tuning his business for next week.
“It’s all in the marks and approach for me, because my form is where it needs to be,” he explained, as Coach Jesse Oviedo came over to the pit and began to help him tinker with the straps of tape, or marks, on the platform. “With a proper approach, the form will always follow, naturally.”
In the throws, look for Cory Esparza of North in the discus and Joey Galvan of EHS in the shot. Esparza has not dominated the competition like it was expected he might, but the burly senior has tossed 155-10 this year. The main horse to pass in his event is David Navarro of P-SJ-A (163-6 for his PR in 2011). Galvan is about a foot behind Eloy Alvarez of P-SJ-A and should be able to make up that distance Tuesday.
With Blake White of Harlingen having cleared a resounding 15-0 in the pole vault, he appears to be a lock for the gold, but North’s Jacob Carranza, consistently at the 12-foot mark all year, might be able to make it out.
Nelson Hampton of Econ should be able to win this meet in both the long and triple jump, as he has recovered from a nagging toe injury.
It hasn’t been a banner year for city sprinters, as the top candidates are from Harlingen South and the Pharrs. The 100 will pit South teammates Jose Garcia and Randy Martinez against each other; both have eclipsed 11 seconds in 2011. Memorial’s Dwayne Spears (22.72) and North’s Ray Flores (22.30) are the odds-on faves in the 200.
Spears is also a good bet in the 400, with a time of 49.05, but teammate Bobby Badillo is close behind at 51.53. North’s Abe Martinez hopes to improve his best time of 51.57 to take the medal stand at Cats.
If North is going to make a stand at district, it needs steady force Adrian Coronado to keep up the good work. He is just about to crack 2 minutes in that race, having accomplished a 2:00.84 in the past.
In the distance runs, count on Daniel Caballero of P-SJ-A to be a strong candidate for double gold. He has run 4:30.85 in the 1600 and 9:53.30 in the 3200, with Al Lozoya of Harlingen his closes competition in the latter race. Luis Reyes of North has shown flashes of brilliance in the long run, and is definitely ready to step up and produce a regional-worthy performance.
In the relays, it should be Pharr North and South squaring off, with North’s 1600 team expecting to vie for the title. The sprint match has the Raiders (43.59) and Hawks (43.82) neck and neck, while the same two schools come in with the best 800 times; P-SJ-A has an outside chance in the 800.
Though he is cursed with the presence of two of the Valley’s best athletes running against him, North’s Jake Hrbacek might just have enough juice to get to regionals. He will have to duel with perennial rivals Zarate of Memorial and Randy Bermea of Harlingen. Those two have dominated the event in 2011, but Hrbacek is set to crank it up in two of the must-see events of the meet.