After the Wagner boys track team won its first regional title Tuesday, Thunderbirds coach Charles Bruce recalled a conversation he had with assistant coach Rodney Clark four years ago.
Wagner’s 800-meter relay, its only entry in the 2006 Region IV-5A meet at Alamo Stadium, had just missed qualifying for the finals, prompting Bruce and Clark to pause for some introspection.
“Rodney and I talked about how hard it was to start a program,” said Bruce, a 1985 Judson graduate who was an assistant at his alma mater before moving to Wagner when the school opened in 2005. “We left Alamo Stadium with our heads down that day.”
Motivated by falling short in their first season, the T-birds finished third in the 2007 and 2008 regional meets before taking second last year.
Wagner took the team title in Tuesday’s finals with 59 points, 19 more than Pflugerville Connally and Johnson, which tied for runner-up honors. Southwest (34) and New Braunfels (32) rounded out the top five boys finishers.
“It feels great,” said Bruce, 43. “There have a lot of bumps in the road, but I’m very proud of these kids. It was great to open Wagner and work with the coaches we have. It was a great team effort today.”
The T-birds' regional championship comes two weeks after they won the District 27-5A meet and stopped Judson’s streak of league titles at 23.
Triple jumper Trayvon Martin won Wagner’s only gold medal at the regional meet, and added a silver in the long jump.
The T-birds finished second in the 4x200 relay, third in the 4x100 and Kali Rashaad won a silver in the 200.
Warren took the 5A girls team crown with 52 points, with Roosevelt (45) edging Wagner (44) for second place. Judson (42) finished fourth and San Benito and Brandeis tied for fifth with 34 points each.
“This is a testament to how hard our kids have worked,” Warren coach Brandi Bode said. “They’re a great group of young ladies. We’ve had our ups and downs, but they’ve stayed strong all season.”
Warren won the team title despite getting disqualified in the 4x200. Sprinters Shakelia Coleman (100), Ashley Rosebrough (200) and the 4x100 relay accounted for the Lady Warriors’ three gold medals.
In 4A, Pflugerville Hendrickson took the boys title with 55 points and Gregory-Portland won the girls crown with 73.
Boerne Champion was the boys runner-up with 48 points, followed by Killeen (44), Rockport-Fulton (43) and Hutto (38).
New Braunfels Canyon (58), Steele (53), Austin Reagan (46) and Austin McCallum (46) were the other top five finishers in the 4A girls team totals.
Meet officials huddled for about 90 minutes after the final event to consider two protests. Both were denied by the appeals committee.
Wagner’s girls 4x400 relay finished third, but was disqualified because one of its runners violated the UIL’s uniform code by wearing an earring. The third-place finish would have given the T-birds 12 more points – and the team championship by four points (56-52).
Roosevelt and Eagle Pass, which finished third and fourth in the boys 4x400, respectively, protested the final results after complaining of some physical contact. Roosevelt was clocked at 3:18.72 and Eagle Pass at 3:18.75.
In the end, the appeals committee ruled there was “simultaneous, incidental contact,” between one relay member from each team, meet director Sandra Tapia said, and the race results stood.
The top two finishers in each event qualified for the University Interscholastic League state meet, scheduled May 14-15 at Myers Stadium in Austin.
The Region IV 5A-4A meet, which actually is two meets in one, traditionally has been a Friday-Saturday event, but it was held on Monday and Tuesday this year because of TAKS testing last week.
As usual, the meet featured plenty of excitement, drama and examples of the unbridled enthusiasm synonymous with high school athletics.
Here are some of the athletes who stood out:
Johnson sophomore Jacob Lady-Schreiber: A transfer from McAllen, Lady-Schreiber won the boys 100 (11.02) and anchored the Jaguars’ winning 4x200 relay (1:27.00). J.J. Latu, Roy Rucker and Zack Bradley ran the other three legs. “I don’t give out the vibe of being fast,” Lady-Schreiber said. “That helps me stay under the radar.” No doubt, his sterling performance in Tuesday’s finals blew his cover.
Alice senior Felisha Salinas: She brought a roar from the crowd when she finished second in the girls 300-meter hurdles despite tumbling to the track in the homestretch. Salinas got up and finished the race before collapsing of exhaustion. “I wanted it so bad,” she said. “I told myself to get up and give it all I’ve got.” Said teammate Marissa Acosta: “It was inspiring to see her run.”
Brackenridge senior Willie Culpepper: A standout running back bound for Miami (Ohio), Culpepper won the 4A boys 200 (21.99) and finished second in the 100 (11.23). “I had been waiting for this opportunity since last year,” Culpepper said. “It was hot today but I felt good. It’s going to be great to go to Austin and represent Brackenridge one last time.” Culpepper will be joined at the state meet by teammate Johnny Camacho, who finished second in the 800 (1:55.31).
Madison junior Aaron Green: One of the state’s top running backs, Green earned a return trip to the state meet with a second-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles (14.54). He won the event at last year’s regional. Although he failed to win a gold medal, Green didn’t disappoint with his comments after he ran. “I can’t complain at all,” he said. “It’s just a blessing to be out there when you think about all the people who can’t use their legs. I would feel blessed if I had finished last. We take a lot of things for granted.” Green, who suffered deep bone bruising and ligament damage in his left foot last season, said he has fully recovered and is looking forward to spring training.
McAllen senior Nick Garza: A UTSA football signee, Garza won the 5A 400-meter dash with a time of 48.24. He showed a good kick as he came off the last curve, running past runner-up Aaron Kelley of Southwest (48.35) with his power and speed. “It was something I dreamed about last night,” Garza said. “I knew I had to make something out of this opportunity. I just want to represent my school well at the state meet." Garza finished second in the 400 at last year’s regional and placed eighth at state.