Think fast: Athletes face choice of graduation or state meet
02:48 AM CDT on Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The state track meet has been a grand stage for DeSoto's Skylar White, who won Class 5A titles in the shot put and discus the last two years. But instead of attempting a three-peat Saturday, the senior has chosen a different stage.
She'll be at the Dallas Convention Center, receiving her diploma with the DeSoto Class of 2009. So will teammate Roshunda Pierson, who won the 5A Region II 300-meter hurdles and is skipping the state meet.
"At first, there was no question. I'm going to graduation," White said. "But then I was thinking that it was another chance to win a state championship, and it was hard."
It was also a decision White never thought she would have to make. Normally, most graduation conflicts only involve baseball and softball players. That's why softball players are occasionally seen flinging graduation caps when their names are announced at the state tournament.
But in this spring of the swine flu, track schedules have changed dramatically. The UIL's decision to suspend competition for nearly a week and reschedule regional meets pushed the state meet back three weeks. And with nearly 2,000 athletes competing this weekend at Myers Stadium in Austin, conflicts were unavoidable.
For athletes who compete on graduation day, the UIL has created a special ceremony before the evening sessions on Friday and Saturday. The ceremony will allow seniors to walk across the finish line on the track and receive a diploma as music plays and the ceremony is professionally photographed and videotaped. UIL assistant athletic director Traci Neely said 75 athletes have signed up.
"It's going to be short, sweet and different, but we wanted the kids to get some sort of acknowledgment," Neely said. "We wanted to fill at least a little bit of that void."
Other athletes might be feeling a void of energy this weekend. Seniors for Lancaster, the 4A boys and girls defending champions, compete Friday night in Austin and graduate Saturday morning in Lancaster. They are supposed to report for graduation ceremonies at 7 a.m.
"The minute they get off the track," Lancaster boys coach Greg Williams said, "we're getting in the cars and heading back."
While the Lancaster athletes are heading north, they'll probably pass Rowlett athletes heading south. Seniors for Rowlett, the defending 5A boys champion, graduate at 8:30 p.m. Friday and compete in Austin on Saturday.
"My hope is that they'll sleep on the drive down," coach David Nanez said.
I certainly hope Marquise Goodwin can get some sleep, because he's scheduled to compete in the long jump Saturday morning. That's the first of five events for the most decorated guy of last year's meet. He'll also be in the triple jump, 200 and 100 and run a leg of the 4x100 relay.
If he still has a leg to stand on, that is. He'll be running on little sleep and in temperatures that could soar into the upper 90s. It could be brutal.
But at least Goodwin will have the chance to be a star on two stages this weekend. Others will have to decide on one.
White, who won the discus by more than 20 feet each of the last two years, said the decision was one of the toughest she's ever had to make. But she knows she made the right choice.
"After all of the years that I've worked in high school," she said, "I wanted to finish at high school graduation and not a track meet."