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AUSTIN – Summer Creek is entering an exclusive club.
Entering the 2022 season, the Bulldogs were the defending Class 6A State Champions. Bringing home the crown a year ago inside Mike A. Myers Stadium gave Summer Creek the program's second-ever title. Its first at the Class 6A level.
On Saturday, as Darius Rainey put the finishing touches of his high school career with a third gold medal of the night and securing with a 4x400-meter relay victory back-to-back State Championships for Summer Creek.
"It is great for the community and great for the Class of 2022," Summer Creek coach Shelton Ervin said. "It has put us in the category with The Woodlands, North Shore, DeSoto and a couple of other programs that have won back-to-back championships at the 6A level. That's huge."
!!TROPHY SEASON!! @HumbleISD_SCHS boys track & field team receives the 2022 Class 6A Boys Track & Field State Championship Trophy! #UILState (@TTFCA @HumbleISD @scgirls_tf @SC_BulldogFB @HumbleISD_Ath @ElizabethFagen @KPRC2RandyMc @KPRC2 @HTownHSS @AngryHalfMiler) pic.twitter.com/EshqqiTqmJ— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 15, 2022
Rainey was a big piece of the Bulldogs' success, becoming the first-ever athlete to take gold in the 400 and 800-meter races at the 6A level at the state meet. The 4x400-meter relay finish gave him three golds - one of the most impressive performances of the meet.
The USC-signee was determined to walk away as a State Champion.
"Ever since last year when I got finished with State, I locked in," Rainey said. "I had one goal in mind and that was just to win every event I was put in at State. I was going to put the work in because that's my mentality. I want to win."
Ervin added about Rainey: "He's a special kid. Ultimately, I'm just a bus driver that makes sure he gets to the meet. He's easy to coach, most of the time. But when it comes to that track and the baton in his hands or lining up in the blocks, he's a dog. He's special."
🚨SUMMER CREEK'S RUN TO GLORY🚨Watch as @DariusRainey3 brings the DAWGS home in the final 400 meters to claim his 3rd GOLD of the night & the 2022 Class 6A Boys Team State Championship! #UILState @HumbleISD_SCHS @HumbleISD @ad_hurdles @MaxPreps @AngryHalfMiler @Donovan_Bradle pic.twitter.com/EiosXXYcc3— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 15, 2022
In the field events earlier in the day, Aaron Davis shined winning the triple jump. Justin Craft took fourth in the shot put, which also gave the Bulldogs points before all their running events scored.
"We pride ourselves on being a total team," Ervin said. "We build up the field events, the running, the distance and everything to where we can have a situation like this and be the last team standing."
For Summer Creek it is back-to-back titles. For the city of Houston, it is the fifth-straight year that a boys track & field team claimed the top prize.
"We've got to keep it in H-Town," Ervin said.
🚨 STATE CHAMPION 🚨@HumbleISD_SCHS senior Aaron Davis (@ad_hurdles), a @UHCougarTF signee wins the Class 6A State 🏆 on his final jump of 25-3.75 which tied for lead. His 5th jump 24-9.75 broke tie for title. @Joseph_Duarte @Carl_Lewis @KPRC2 @KPRC2RandyMc @HumbleISD @TTFCA pic.twitter.com/f7l79XtYWe— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 14, 2022
Shadow Creek Girls Finish as State Runner-Up
The Sharks of Shadow Creek showed up and showed out in Austin.
With just a pair of relays, their path to the podium at the end of the night was to not only perform well in those races but to win them.
Not only did the Sharks win those races, but they posted the No. 1 time in the country in the 4x200-meter relay and No. 2 time in the country in the 4x400-meter relay. In the first, with Amaya Kennison-Jenkins, Mackenzie Collins, Sydney Bryant and Nia Parks, Shadow Creek posted a blazing 1:35.14.
Heading into the State Meet, Shadow Creek's best time was third-best in Texas at 1:37.05. But with their new mark, it surpassed Katy Seven Lakes (1:35.81) for the top time in Texas and in the nation.
#UILState Track: Watch as @SharkTrackSCHS girls 4x200 go from Bronze in 2021 to GOLD in 2022! What an anchor leg by Nia Parks!! That was the 4th fastest 4X200 EVER in Texas at 1:35.14. (@amayaskj @CoachDrones @SCSharkFootball @TTFCA @CoachAnderson50 @SCHSATHBC1 @ShadowCreekHS) pic.twitter.com/WHDw4hhqti— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 15, 2022
With 20 points in their pocket, the last chance for more was in the final race of the night.
In the 4x400-meter relay, which had Collins, Kennison-Jenkins, Madyson Thurmond and Parks on it, the Sharks once again set the bar in the nation. They posted a 3:41.69, which bested their previous mark of 3:43.64 that was No. 5 in the country coming in. Their new mark put them the tops in Texas and No. 2 in the country behind Bullis School from Maryland (3:40.88).
The total of 40 points was enough to give Shadow Creek a State Runner-Up finish.
It seemed as though no record was safe.
Inside the walls of Mike A. Meyers Stadium on Saturday, as the Class 6A events for the day checked off the list, the number of record-setting performances grew as each set of events passed.
Houston-area athletes were a part of quite a few of those.
The biggest came from Tomball Memorial's Molly Haywood in the girls pole vault. Coming in, Haywood was not only a favorite to win the event but also break the state meet record of 13-feet-9-inches that was set only a year ago.
Haywood cleared that mark on her first try to tie the record and then went over at 14-feet to take ownership. Haywood was going jump for jump with Coppell's Skyler Schuller.
When the bar went up to 14-feet-3-inches, Haywood was the only one to clear it, bringing home gold and rewriting the record book.
"Super cool, I'm hoping to beat the record again next year," Haywood said. "But to have it is absolutely insane. I've looked up to some of the girls that have had it for years. To be able to jump like they do is outstanding."
🚨 CLASS 6A & STATE RECORD 🚨@TMHS__athletics Junior Molly Haywood SETS the new 6A & State of Texas Girls Pole Vault record at 14-feet-3-inches!! Wow!! #UILState @MaxPreps @TomballISD @KPRC2 @KPRC2RandyMc @HTownHSS @SCNext @espn @polevaultpower @TTFCA @TMHSAthBooster pic.twitter.com/oxe24Y5kQn— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 14, 2022
In the 6A boys high jump, Strake Jesuit's Jayce Posey broke the Class 6A record from 2004, clearing 7-feet-4.25-inches.
The previous record was held by Cinco Ranch's Scott Sellers. In the 6A boys triple jump, Fort Bend Travis' went all out on his final Damilare Olukosi jump of the day to hit 51-feet-8.75-inches, breaking the previous 6A record from 2001. In that year, Nimitz's Stephen Brown hit 51-feet-6.25-inches.
In the 6A boys shot put, Seven Lakes' Matthew Rueff capped his high school career hitting 68-feet-1.75-inches in his final throw of the day.
"After my third throw I knew I was still missing it off my hand," Rueff said. "I went to my coach and said I have three throws left in my high school career. We went all out, wrapped hard and I just got through the front. I knew that was it when I threw it."
It gave the Auburn track-signee the gold and the Seven Lakes school record, passing Cooper Campbell, who had held it with a throw of 66-feet-7 1/2-inches.
"It means a lot, it's emotional," Rueff said about being in the record books. "I know all these guys, who were the school record holders in the past. Just to have some of them here and be able to watch it and know that I'm on there now it's awesome. It means a lot to me."
The Houston-area had multiple athletes make it to Austin in differing events. Some were in multiple field events, while others held court in the field in the morning and on the oval come the evening.
In the field events, Klein High's India Alix made it onto the podium in the long jump and the triple jump. It was a successful first-ever trip to the UIL State Track & Field meet for Alix, who hit 20-feet in the long jump for silver and 41-feet-11.25-inches in the triple jump for bronze.
"It pumped me up," Alix said about missing state last year. "I trained harder and longer. I got a better recovery with a new regiment going so I could get myself mentally and physically prepared."
In the running events, Summer Creek's Rainey brough home a pair of gold medals in the 400-meter, the 800-meter races and the 4x400-meter relay. Mayde Creek's Simone Ballard garnered the gold in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles.
Klein Forest's Jelani Watkins won gold in the 200-meter dash, 4x200-meter relay and silver in the 4x100-meter relay.
"This gives me a lot of confidence," Watkins said. "Because it shows me that I can compete with older guys."
6A Boys 300 Meter Hurdles - Eugene Liger (Cypress Woods) - State Champion (36.57); Donovan Bradley (Summer Creek) - 3rd (37.18) 6A Girls 200 Meter Dash - Cameryn Dickson (Clear Brook) - 2nd place (23.20) 6A Boys 200 Meter Dash - Jelani Watkins (Klein Forest) - State Champion (20.78); Tyriq Brunn (Shadow Creek) - 2nd place (21.00)6A Boys 1600 Meter Race - Emanuel Galdino (Stratford) - State Champion (4:06.40); Ruben Rojas (Seven Lakes) - 3rd place (4:08.76) 6A Girls 4x400 Relay - Shadow Creek (State Champion) - 3:41.69; Atascocita (3rd) - 3:44.866A Boys 4X400 Relay - Summer Creek (State Champion) - 3:10.36; Klein (3rd) - 3:13.29
Kingwood's girls golf team qualified for state for the fifth straight year after winning the Region III-6A championship by 44 shots last month.
As individualistic as golf is, Kingwood’s girls team doesn’t go about it that way.
The Mustangs are essentially sisters on the course, fortified by a togetherness that absolves any selfish inhibition. They care about their individual performances, sure, but mostly because they know the effect it will have upon team goals and expectations.
The team is what matters. It’s why Kingwood is back at the UIL Class 6A state tournament for the fifth straight year, teeing off Monday at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown.
“I think what has benefited us tremendously is that the top five (girls) are all basically best friends,” said sophomore Bella Flores, Kingwood’s No. 1 player and runner-up at the Region III-6A tournament last month. “You want to go play golf since you know your friends are going to be up there as well. We have all grown so close together and have made so many memories that we are all truly rooting for one another.”
Kingwood won the Region III-6A championship by an incredible 44 shots. It was quite the turnaround from last season, when the Mustangs lost the regional title by one shot. They still advanced to state by finishing as one of the top three teams at regionals but placed 10th in Georgetown.
Flores, junior Morgan Ankenbrandt, junior Kate Hartnett and senior Kathy Rodriguez are returners from last year.
“Those girls have done this before,” said coach Susan Willis, in her 15th year at the helm of the program. “We got beat last year at regionals and they wanted to rectify that this year. They’re determined to go back to state and come home with a medal. They want to win.
“They know in their hearts how good they are. They know the work it takes, and they are willing to do it every day. They’ve set their own goals as a group, and that’s the only way something like this works.”
The Mustangs are targeting a total score of 600 at state. They shot 635 last year. They have hit 600 once this year, when they shot 284 on the second day of their last regular season tournament to score 600-even.
The hope is to break 600, like elite teams can do. Lewisville Hebron, last year’s state champ, shot 598. Second-place Austin Vandegrift shot 605. Third-place Austin Westlake shot 611.
Kingwood believes it is an elite team.
It starts with Flores, who shot 9-over at regionals and has now led Kingwood to state twice. Flores said last year was critical for her. She soaked in everything and anything, from learning how to play as part of a team—her first year doing so—to acclimating to pressure and situations of postseason play.
“I try to do the very best I can for my teammates,” Flores said. “I’ve also learned a lot of new creative skills on the golf course. Going out with my teammates and playing different games have put me in difficult and different situations than what I would normally be in. My mental game has definitely improved because I’ve gained more experience and have been to more seminars.”
Willis never ceases to be amazed by Flores.
“Her drive, her desire to be the best and the work she puts in are incredible,” Willis said. “Her short game is good. She’s not a big kid. She hits the ball well for her size, but she is really good around the greens and makes good decisions the majority of the time. Her course management is very good.”
Flores’ skill and leadership are bedrocks of the team’s culture. Rodriguez is the glue of the team, a unifier who plays a huge role in keeping everyone together and on the same page.
Those two are essential to the make-up of Kingwood.
Willis also credits continuity for her program’s consistency. And she credits the local golf scene for the continuity.
Freshman Khloe Jones has been a revelation this season. She is the team’s No. 4 player. Willis is excited about another incoming freshman who figures to make an impact next year.
“The junior golf program at Kingwood Country Club is phenomenal,” Willis said. “The people there do an incredible job with tons of kids. That’s really been a big part of why we’re so successful. Kids start so young. Our assistant coach and boys head coach and I have a Lake Houston Beltway junior golf section out here, so every summer, one day a week, we have the ability to see the younger kids, starting with a five-hole division, up to nine holes, then 18 holes. Through all of that, it’s given us a constant stream of young golfers coming through.”
But these Mustangs are grown, experienced and mature. Optimistic and hungry to best the program’s previous best finish at state of sixth place.
Willis is confident her girls can do exactly that. As a team.
“As individual as golf can be, that’s not how they see it,” Willis said. “They see it as ‘I’m one person working to help the other four.’ That’s as important to their success as anything.”