By DAVID CLAYBOURN
Last year Ulisses Lopez of Royse City took fifth in the Class 4A 800-meter run at the University Interscholastic League State Track and Field Championships in Austin.
Lopez will try to move up in the standings when he runs again in the 4A finals at 6:20 this evening at the Mike A. Myers Stadium. Lopez is one of five local competitors competing today. Five local athletes will also compete on Saturday, including Rains sophomore Charlotte Brown, who is drawing statewide and national attention as the first legally blind athlete to compete at the state meet in the pole vault. She’ll vault at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, a change from an earlier 11 a.m. schedule and will later receive a national spirit award.
Lopez clocked a career-best time of 1 minute, 55.17 seconds to claim his fifth last year. He heads into today’s competition with the ninth-fastest qualifying time at 1:57.10.
Michael Johnson from San Elizario leads the qualifiers at 1:55.45.
Lockhart’s Robert Uhr and Alec Saucedo of Red Oak are back from last year’s race. They finished second and third.
Commerce’s Buck Wilson, second last year in the Class 3A triple jump, should be one of the favorites to win the 2A event that starts at 7 p.m. Wilson qualified with the fourth-best jump at 45-2 but went 48-1/2 last year at state, which is nearly two feet farther than the best qualifying mark of 46-4 3/4 turned in by Devonte Steele of Marlin.
Wilson is also set to run the 300-meter hurdles at 2:05 p.m. on Sturday.
Two Leonard athletes are competing today, including Chelsea Brockus in the girls 2A 3200-meter run at 9:20 a.m. and then Brittyn Rushing in the girls 2A long jump at 1:30 p.m. Brockus ranks fourth among the 3200-meter qualifiers with an 11:51.07 and Rushing ranks ninth among the long jump qualifiers at 17-4. It’ll be the first state appearance for both Leonard athletes.
Cody Harbin of Wolfe City is also set to make his state debut at 2 p.m. today in the Class A Division I high jump. Harbin qualified with the fourth-best jump at 6-2.
Brown will be making state history on Saturday. Not only is she the first legally blind athlete to qualify for the girls pole vault but is also believed to be the first with her condition to qualify in any event at the UIL state track and field championships.
“We’ve had that discussion and don’t know of any other athlete prior with that condition,” wrote Traci Neely, an assistant athletic director with the UIL.
The New York Times sent a photographer to Alba to photograph Brown’s pole vault workout on Wednesday. A Times sportswriter has been working on a feature story about Brown. Brown worked out in Alba for the past two weeks while Wildcat Stadium in Emory is being rebuilt.
Brown has been previously featured in the Greenville Herald-Banner, Rains County Leader and the Dallas Morning News, plus on television’s Texas Country Reporter.
Also set to compete on Saturday are Lone Oak runners Trevor Hemphill and Hanah Nichol, Rains triple jumper Grant Russell and Farmersville 400-meter runner J’Kaylee Clark.
State meet schedule
Mike A. Myers Stadium, Austin
9:20 a.m. — Class 2A girls 3200-meter run, Chelsea Brockus, Leonard
1:30 p.m. — Class 2A girls long jump, Brittyn Rushing, Leonard
2 p.m. — Class A, Division I boys high jump, Cody Harbin, Wolfe City
6:20 p.m. — Class 4A 800-meter run, Ulisses Lopez, Royse City
7 p.m. — Class 2A boys triple jump, Buck Wilson, Commerce
11:30 a.m. — Class 3A girls pole vault, Charlotte Brown, Rains
12:20 p.m. — Class 2A boys 800-meter run, Trevor Hemphill, Lone Oak
1 p.m. — Class 3A boys triple jump, Grant Russell, Rains
1:45 p.m. — Class 2A girls 400-meter dash, J’Kaylee Clark, Farmersville
2:05 p.m. — Class 2A 300-meter hurdles, Buck Wilson, Commerce
2:45 p.m. — Class 2A girls 1600-meter run, Hanah Nichol, Lone Oak