Amarillo High highlights Region I-5A track and field meet

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Amarillo High’s Adam Burlison won two gold medals during the Region I-5A track and field meet on Friday and Saturday in Lubbock. [James Abel/ Press Pass Sports]
LUBBOCK – Adam Burlison is back, now looking to go back-to-back.

And how bout that Amarillo High girls 1600 relay team?

Burlison in the long-distance runs, determined Keely Harper in the hurdles, and a motivated 1600 Lady Sandie team punched their tickets to state highlighting Amarillo ISD performances Saturday at the 2024 Region I-5A track and field meet at PlainsCapital-Park Lowrey Field.

Make that a cold, windy, wet Saturday of not ideal track conditions.

Despite the cruddy weather and an hour and a half delay, with the prize for the top two finishers being the coveted trip to the UIL state track meet in Austin there was still sunshine on faces.

AHS led the way for the AISD advancing to state Burelson in the 3200 and 1600, Harper in 300 hurdles, and senior Moriah Claybook, junior Sierra Cornell, freshman Willow Cornell and Harper in the girls 1600 relay.

Several AISD athletes finished third and have a chance to advance to state as the one wildcard selected out of the four state regionals earns the nod by having the best time or jump.

Since the Region II-5A meet was postponed Saturday due to inclement weather and moved to early next week, the wildcard winners won’t be determined until that time.

Adam Burlison won the 5A state 3200 and 1600 last year running for Grapevine. [James Abel/ Press Pass Sports]
So for now, not a banner day for AISD athletes at this meet as AHS is the lone school with two athletes and relay state-bound.

Burlison back digging for more gold

The stocky, running machine that Adam Burlison is proved dominant and ready to defend his state titles in both events winning pretty much unchallenged in the 3200 and 1600.

On Friday in the 3200, Burlison showed patience running a tactical race winning in a time of 9:07.59, nearly 12 seconds ahead of El Paso’s Miles Westbrook.

Then in the cold on Saturday in the 1600 Burlison held a 7-yard lead 300 meters into the race opening with a 62-second split and never had company the rest of way at 4:16.95.

Burlison won the 5A state 3200 and 1600 last year running for Grapevine. Placing second Saturday was Argyle’s Tyler Westrom at 4:21.90. Burlison gave Westrom a hug as he looked back and saw who it was.

“Tyler is a great kid, I love him,” said Burlison, who has signed to run college for the University of Texas. “When I was at Grapevine we raced in the same district. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy against him. The hug was he’s my friend and I wanted to see him make it to state.”

Burlison has run well all spring in the not-so-friendly Texas Panhandle weather along with deftly handling attending a new school and the pressure of being the hunted every time out as a defending state champ in 5A.

“This regional meet was the first time I felt the nerves comeback,” said Burlison, who turned around minutes after his 1600 run, running the third leg on the Sandies fourth-place1600 relay team and handing off in second place. “It’s getting real. It’s championship season and everybody runs at their best right now and you have to go out and prove yourself every week.”

Burlison was pleased with his two-gold medal runs, although a bit different strategy.

“That 3200 was a great race I was patient in making a move and that kind of thing,” Burlison said. “I thought it went as well as it could have gone. … in the 1600 it was just trying to burn everybody out from the start and kind of front running and see who could hang on at the end.”

Burlison made an interesting decision last month switching his college commitment from Oregon to Texas. He said with his plans to switch to the 800 and 1500 in college sparked the change.

“Just right now where I’m at I think Texas is probably the best fit for me,” Burlison said. “I have family down there. Now I have past teammates there Isaac Alonzo and I really like Coach (Greg) Metcalf. Switching over next year to more mid distances like the 800 and 1500 I think Coach Metcalf has really done a great job with that. UT has about three guys running 1:46. It’s going to be fun.”

Burlison said his passion to run isn’t really about the love of running, but more about competing.

“I don’t know if it’s so much running as it is competing,” Burlison said. “I mean we have a ping pong table at my house, and it gets pretty serious sometimes. Just going out competing. It’s just fun. I love it.”

Thankful is an understatement Burlison feels for the opportunity to repeat as a state distance champion.

“That’s the plan,” Burlison said breaking into a smile. “Nothing is promised. Anyone can lose on any given day. It is what is. I’m really excited. I get to go down and run in my new hometown.”

Amarillo High’s Keely Harper earned a spot at the state meet with a silver medal in the 300-meter hurdles. [James Abel/ Press Pass Sports]

Fourth time is a charm for Harper

Keely Harper is a stranger to this regional meet like wind is to Amarillo.

Not at all.

But Saturday she departed with a smile she has never felt before advancing to state as an individual and anchoring the 1600 relay ream.

Harper had finished fourth the previous three years at regionals in the 300 hurdles. So when she found herself neck and neck with Midlothian senior D’Mari Gray with two hurdles remaining in her race, it was game on.

Harper found something extra and was able to find an edge and lean in nipping Gray by .55 hundredths of second to earn the silver medal and a trip to state with a 45.26.

Harper went to a knee after the race with a sight of joy on her face.

“This was my fourth year here and I had made the finals the previous three times and finished fourth each time,” Harper said. “I was fourth (in the prelims) this time. This was my senior year so I went into it wanting to go.”

Harper said running side-by-side with Gray as the end of the race neared “in my mind I thought this is it. You are either going or you aren’t going and I just went. It was totally in God’s hands. It was a God thing. He’s just taking care of me. I had that adrenaline rush going past the crowd I heard ‘you gotta go!’ and it was like I went.”

Harper has worked on keeping her technique strong and going for it at the end of races since last year’s fourth place finish.

“Every other practice no matter what we were doing we sat up those last two hurdles and working on not chopping and running as fast as you can.”

It worked.

“Oh my gosh, this feels so good,” Harper said. “We went last year as a relay but to go as an individual. That place is so special.”

Amarillo High’s Sierra Cornell celebrates after helping the Lady Sandies to a gold medal in the 1600-meter relay. [James Abel/ Press Pass Sports]

Rinse and repeat, AHS girls win the 1600 relay

Fourth place.

Last year at the state track meet the Amarillo High girls 1600 relay team missed the medal stand by one place finishing fourth.

“That’s one of the things that has kept us hungry with a drive to get back,” AHS girls track coach Jonathan Woodard said of his 2024 relay team with two returning runners in Harper and Sierra Cornell.

Well, the motivation worked.

AHS cut more than two seconds off its previous best time of the year winning in 3:56.81 over Burleson (3:59.05).

With Moriah Claybook opening with her best 400 of the year at 59.8, Woodward knew good things were in store.

By the time the Cornell sisters – Sierra and Willow both improving every meet after spending much of the spring on the Lady Sandies outstanding soccer team – – handled their business in the second and third legs. Harper  took over the last lap ending in a strong sprint leaving Burleson behind.

“There is no doubt, those girls run for one another,” Woodard said. “I love watching that. I told them the weather isn’t ideal. But this sure as heck is ideal Sandie weather. They were like ‘Yeah, it is.’

“For us it’s just, compete, baby like (former AHS track coach) Joe Bain said. And that’s what they did competed for each other, for their school and for the 806.”

Amarillo High’s Pius Vokes finished third in the 100-meter dash. [James Abel/ Press Pass Sports]

Regional notes 

Several AISD athletes came close to punching their ticket to state by finishing third. None closer than AHS senior Pius Vokes in the 100-meter dash.

Vokes, a star running back for the Sandies, broke from the blocks in the middle of the pack. But he steadily gained ground on the leaders and when he leaned at the line it was impossible to tell if he or Mansfield Timberview’s Tyler Madison had finished second.

Grapevine’s Rondale Carridine certainly was the winner at 10.60.

Vokes stared at the stadium scoreboard which didn’t release the times right away. About 25-30 seconds after the finish Vokes saw the times and his head dropped. He had lost out to Madison and a state berth by .2 hundreths of a second.

“I wanna say I could have done better,” Vokes said of his run. “It is what is. At the end of the day God gets all the glory. Honestly, it was my acceleration I couldn’t kick in this weather. It’s not an excuse it’s just something I need to improve on. I thought I got second. While they were checking I was there praying and praying and waiting.”

Vokes like others AISD athletes will have a chance to run at state if the wildcard spot falls their way:

Because of the weather conditions predicted for Saturday, all the field events were held Friday. Tascosa’s junior Aushaun Wilson had a strong day with 6-foot-6 inch leap in the high jump and a 23-foot-long jump. Both left him in third place as Midlothian Heritage’s Julian McCullough opened eyes with his seven-foot-high jump win, while two second place in the long jump eluded Wilson by two inches.

AHS’ Sierra Cornell is headed to state in the 1600 relay and finished a strong third in the 800-metter run at 2:18.05. However, since a third-place runner from one of the other two regions completed on Saturday had a faster time, Cornell will have to settle on running only the relay in Austin.

Palo Duro sophomore Vern Blair ran a 14.71 in the 110 hurdles finishing third to winner Alex Moore of Mansfield Timberview (14.37) and Burleson Centennial’s Isaiah Waters (14.44). Blair did a nice job dealing with an almost collision situation next to him. He will wait to see if his time earns wildcard status.

Tascosa junior Saphina Stanley emptied it all in effort in the 400 meters finishing third at 58.34 losing ground late in the race with the leaders. Stanley no doubt gave her all as he sat on the infield for a good five minutes before she could catch her breath.

Caprock freshman wheelchair athlete Tristan West finished second in the 100-meters competition at 19.61 and second in the 400 meters at 1:18.64. The wheelchair qualifying for state is a bit different as the times from any meet in the year count toward qualifying. So, West will have to wait and see if his times get him a lane in Austin.
The UIL Class 5A track and field meet is set for Friday, May 5, at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.

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