It’s not quite known exactly when Porter High School last sent a male and a female athlete to the state track & field meet in the same season, but it’s been a while.
The last time a Porter boy qualified for state was 2016, when Anthony Gonzalez qualified in the 400-meter run, but the last time a girls athlete qualified was 1988, when Leticia Trevino qualified in the mile run, 13 years before any student at the school was even born.
So when quarter-miler Jorge Salazar and triple jumper Estrella Medellin punched their tickets to the Class 5A state meet, it was special and they felt it.
During last week’s Region IV-5A meet in San Antonio, Medellin finished second with a personal-best jump of 36 feet, 10 inches, propelling her to state meet and reducing her to tears.
“I was waiting for the official to say that I got it and that I am going,” Medellin said. “It’s amazing, and it’s been a while since Porter has gone to state. It’s pretty cool to be able to represent Porter; it’s been forever. It felt really cool and I cried; it was really emotional. I want to thank my parents for always supporting me, as well as all the coaches and the school.”
Salazar ran a very close 400 race, finishing in 49.50 seconds, behind Boerne Champion’s John Moreno (49.43) and ahead of San Antonio Southwest’s Johnny Samudio (49.54).
The junior runner felt nerves waiting for the official results, but was hit with emotion as soon as it came down.
“I was nervous to see if I was going to state,” Salazar said. “The referee went up to me and said, ‘Congratulations, you qualified to state,’ and then he gave me my card that said I placed second. It was a really big joy after all the work I put in, it was a feeling I can’t explain. It was a joy more than anything. I really want to thank the coaches and trainers for helping me get here. I have never seen anyone so excited to train for the sport.”
For the junior pair, there were little to no hints that it would ultimately reach this point at the start of the season.
In fact, late March is when both athletes felt they began peaking in their respective events.
It was the Raymondville Albert Tijerina relays where Medellin said she began to progress in her jumps after staying stagnant.
“The season started good since I was almost hitting my PR from last season,” Medellin said. “But after a while, (my jumps) didn’t go as far until I started going back to basics. At the meet before district, after that it was progress. My jumps were just there and then it was basic, basics, basics.”
It paid off in a big way, winning just her second gold medal in the triple jump with a distance of 35-2.5, followed by a second-place finish at the District 32-6A meet (35-4). She followed that effort with a third-place finish at the 31/32-5A area meet (35-1.5), at which she felt she didn’t do her best work.
“I had jumped a 35-4 at the previous meet, but I didn’t meet it at area,” Medellin said. “I qualified, but I still felt I could have gotten better. Before the jumps my legs were shaking and I was nervous, but at regionals, I was calm. Coach had told me to remember it’s just like any other meet, and that stuck with me.”
Medellin approached every jump at the regional “by praying,” but still managed to calm herself enough to turn her third-place finish at area into a state ticket, managing three separate PRs in the process, going from a 35-4 to a 36-10 in one day.
“At the beginning it was slow, but from Raymondville to district to area and regionals, she progressed,” Porter girls track coach Connie Uribe-Solis said. “She’s a hard-working kid, humble and always here. She’s very good at doing the little things that makes a good jumper a great jumper.”
As for Salazar, he didn’t run the 400 until the Knights of Columbus meet in Mercedes, where he placed first with a 51.18. He didn’t dip into the 40s until the Meet of Champions — one meet before district.
“Based on his times, we knew had the potential to be a state qualifier,” Porter boys track coach Jaime Pena said. “Once he hit that 49 at the Meet of Champions, he was ecstatic. As we got closer to regionals, we knew he might have a shot to (qualify) to state. I told him, ‘Nobody knows your name, but they’re going to find out who you are pretty quick.’”
Salazar followed with district and area titles, and then set a personal record of 49.50 at the regional meet, qualifying him to state.
Now, the junior quarter-miler has another goal in mind, breaking the Brownsville and Porter record of 49.17, set by Gonzalez in 2016.
There have been many motivating factors throughout the season, but signing his name in the record book has been one of the top ones for Salazar.
“It took a lot of dedication to put in the work in every practice,” Salazar said. “You set goals for yourself at the beginning of the season and put in the hard work to reach them. Anthony Gonzalez holds the (school and city) record, and to think that I’m less than a second from equaling it or even breaking it motivates me more. It’s like I already broke his, now who’s going to break mine.”
Both athletes have nothing to lose as juniors and everything to gain after an already huge season, but neither will approach the state meet that way.
“In a way there is pressure, but I want to go and experience it,” Medellin said. “I also want to see how far I can jump. I don’t want to be content. I want to see how far I can go.”
Salazar said the only pressure is the kind he puts on himself, because a return to this level isn’t guaranteed.
“Since I got to Porter, I worked hard to get a place at state,” he said. “And working hard got me a place at state. Once you veer off your goals, it’s hard to get back to the same place again.”