Cardinals, Lady Panthers win area crowns

WESLACO — For the second meet in a row, the Harlingen High boys track & field team went into the 1,600-meter relay needing a win — and a little help this time — to capture a championship.

And once again, the mile relay team came through, winning the event and sending the Cardinals past Edinburg Vela to the top of the District 31/32-6A area meet standings with 134 points Thursday night at Bobby Lackey Stadium.

“It speaks to the resiliency of the kids,” Harlingen High coach Efrain Ambriz said. “We had to battle back a little bit. I know Vela came out with a lot of points out of the field events. We bounced back and forth, took the lead and they took it back after the mile. We knew there was an eight-point cushion there where we were trying to end up. I’m just really happy with how we performed again.”

Harlingen High finished the 1,600 relay in 3 minutes, 29.70 seconds, followed by Harlingen South (3:30.34), Edinburg Vela (3:30.90) and Los Fresnos (3:33.12).

The top four finishers in each event move on to the Region IV-6A meet on April 26-27 in San Antonio.

Once again, coming down the final stretch to give Harlingen High the win was quarter-miler Cole Swinnea.

“That feeling of coming down the last straightaway of race is unreal,” Swinnea said. “You know you’re about to win the meet and you know anyone behind you isn’t. It’s a special push. We did the math correctly, and knew we had to win and Vela had to come in at least third for us to win, and we did the job.”

Vela finished in second with 126 points, followed by Harlingen South (106), Weslaco High (104), Weslaco East (29) and Edinburg High (24).

Harlingen High’s Jose Garcia had another big meet, winning and setting meet records in the 100 and 200. Garcia’s 10.30 in the 100 topped the 10.83 time set in 2016, and his  21.30 in the 200 beat the previous time of 21.64, both set by Los Fresnos’ Christian Perales in 2016.

Both are Harlingen High school records.

“He’s on fire,” Ambriz said of Garcia. “If we can just keep that on through regionals, we’re going to have a good shot at state, which is what we’re looking for.”

Also qualifying in the 100 was Weslaco High’s Joe Maldonado (10.71), Harlingen High’s Pedro Luna (10.82) and Weslaco High’s Gabriel Gonzalez.

In the 200, Weslaco High’s K-Jay Jones finished second (22.29), followed by Maldonado (22.31) and Weslaco East’s Hector Muniz (22.49).

On the girls side of things, Weslaco High dominated the standings and cruised to its seventh straight area meet championship, scoring 140 points.

“I think (winning seven area meets) is sort of surreal,” Weslaco High coach Pablo Almaguer said. “It goes by so quick and to think about it, every year is different. I like to press the reset button every year; there’s a new set of girls. Of course, there are veterans on the team, but there’s always a new freshman and sophomore coming in. We really just want everyone to continue that tradition and be a part of that success.”

The Los Fresnos girls finished second with 70 points, followed by San Benito (58), Brownsville Rivera (52), Edinburg Vela (48) and Brownsville Hanna (47).

The Lady Panthers received big performances from two of their top performers.

Amity Ebard, who won the 400 (59.03) and the 800 (2:19.04), and Lisamarie Sanchez took home gold in the 300 hurdles and set a meet record with a time of 45.55, breaking the 46.18 mark set by Weslaco High’s Alyssa De Leon in 2016.

Sanchez also won the triple jump (35 feet, 3 inches).

RECORD BREAKERS

Sanchez and Garcia weren’t the only ones to write their names in the area meet record book Friday.

A pair of Los Fresnos girls set area meet records, starting with Luisa Cruz, who set the 100 mark with a 12.22, breaking the 12.23 mark set by Harlingen South’s Cierra Pena in 2015.

It was the second are meet in a row that Cruz set a meet record, accomplishing the feat in the 200 last year with a 25.29.

“My performance overall was pretty good,” Cruz said. “I set a PR in the 100, and I was surprised because I haven’t been hitting good times all season. I didn’t start the season very well with my times like last season, but I guess I’m starting to peak. It’s perfect timing because this is where it all counts.

In the 100 hurdles, the Lady Falcons’ Brianna Alex clocked in at 14.25, topping the 15.20 set by former Los Fresnos hurdler Jaleah Calvillo in 2014.

Alex also placed second in the 300 hurdles behind Weslaco High’s Sanchez and was on the second-place 1,600 relay team, as was Cruz.

Weslaco High won the 1,600 relay with a mark of 4:06.77.

“I think I did pretty good,” Alex said. “It’s not exactly what I was expected and not what I had hoped for, but I set a PR and meet record in the 100 hurdles. It was a really big win for me. In the (mile relay), we were a little nervous, but we came out and we delivered. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. I’m just very proud of everyone and I’m pretty happy that I get to go to regionals in all three of my events.”

Brownsville Rivera’s Andrea de la Rosa set an area record in the 3,200 with an 11:27.94, topping McAllen Rowe athlete Gabriela Guerrero’s 11:28.29 mark from 2014. De la Rosa also won the 1,600 (5:38.72).

Harlingen South’s Nitia Duran set his area mark in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.43, topping the 14.59 mark set by Weslaco High’s Alexander Lara in 2017.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Duran said. “When I finished the race I looked at my teammate, Israel Villarreal, and he was in awe. I shook my finger because I didn’t think I ran that fast, but I looked at the time on the scoreboard and it was the best feeling ever. This whole season I struggled to get under 15, but at Meet of Champs I tied the school record and every meet since has been a PR.”