JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
AUSTIN — Marble Falls High School graduate and Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano along with members of the girls track-and-field teams at Marble Falls and Burnet high schools will compete in the 88th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
The relays are one of the premier meets in the world and pit the best track-and-field athletes on the professional, university and high school levels against each other.
Manzano will run in the men’s 800 meters at 7 p.m. March 26, while the high school competition will take place March 27-28 at Mike A. Myers Stadium, 707 Clyde Littlefield Drive. The stadium is on the University of Texas campus.
High school runners from Classes 1A-4A are in Division I, while those from Classes 5A-6A will compete in Division II.
Burnet senior pole vaulter Blake Skoog will compete at 9 a.m. March 28, the same time the Lady Dawgs’ 4×100-meter relay team will race in the preliminary. Head coach Frank Hughey is still deciding which runners will compete. Skoog is a member of the relay team, but she will not run to concentrate on the pole vault, he said.
The Lady Mustangs will be represented by:
• junior Natalie Schulz in the 100-meter hurdle. The preliminary is 1:30 p.m. March 27.
• the 4×100-meter relay team. The preliminary is 9 a.m. March 28.
• and the 4×400-meter relay team. The preliminary is 7:40 p.m. March 27.
The relay teams include Schulz, sophomore Lauren Loader and seniors Maddie Johnson and Sarah Lewis.
Marble Falls returns to the stadium after competing at the 2014 Class 4A state meet last May. The Lady Dawgs will be making their first appearance at the stadium.
“In that atmosphere, you run against the highest levels of that competition,” Hughey said. “The moment you step on that surface, I don’t care who you are, it’ll be a little overwhelming. They’re all really excited about the opportunity.”
Marble Falls head coach Kyle Futrell believes Schulz will be one of almost 80 runners. The nine fastest runners will compete in the final.
Hughey said high school athletes get the opportunity to observe how their professional and college counterparts warm up, mentally prepare and compete, which is invaluable for a high school program.
“They absorb a lot of things,” he said.
“It’s also about the experience in running in big meets and competing,” Futrell said. “Our goal is to run faster than we’ve ever run. We could run faster than we’ve run and not make the finals. So our mindset in our relays is let’s go do what we can do.”
For Skoog, the competition at the Texas Relays is tougher than at the state meet, which will be held in May. The state meet is divided by classification. Texas Relays organizers invite the top 27 vaulters based on submitted heights cleared at meets hosted by high schools throughout the season. Skoog set a program record by clearing 11 feet and 4 inches at the Lampasas Relays on March 20.
Skoog, a former gymnast, barely missed clearing 11-8, hitting the bar as she turned her body in the air to land.
“She’s as good of an athlete as I’ve been around in high school,” Hughey said. “We’re scratching the surface of what she can do.”
No matter the outcomes in each race, both coaches said they believe the benefits will far outweigh the results.
“It’s about the experience and chance for the kids to run in a big-time competition,” Futrell said. “It’s one chance for these kids to run at the University of Texas and run against other classifications.”