JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
SAN ANTONIO — On the days they needed to perform at their best, Marble Falls High School senior discus thrower Ryan Becker and junior hurdler Natalie Schulz did just that to qualify for the Class 5A state meet.
Becker threw a personal best 156 feet 3 inches to finish second at the Class 5A Region IV meet May 1, while Schulz was second in the 100-meter hurdles in 15.43 seconds and second in the 300-meter hurdles in 44.95 seconds.
“That was awesome,” Marble Falls head coach Kyle Futrell said. “(Becker) didn’t have any bad throws.”
The Mustang was fifth but moved to second on his fifth and final attempt. Futrell said they experienced some anxious moments as three other throwers, who entered the contest with better marks, each had one more chance to pass Becker. Only the top two in each event advance to the state meet.
In addition, the throwing pit is located below a small hill, so athletes must throw uphill.
“If you ran uphill, you wouldn’t run as fast, would you?” Futrell said. “Same thing in throwing. How much does it take away? I don’t know. It comes down to who doesn’t let it bother them mentally.”
The coach said he studied each thrower’s heaves from area meets and concluded there was a discrepancy of 5-6 feet where athletes had shorter marks at the regional meet.
Schulz was consistently good. She set a new personal best in the 300 hurdles in route to punching her ticket back to the state meet. In 2014, she competed in the long jump and was a member of the 4×400-meter relay team that qualified for the state meet.
Jacob Bryer was sixth in the shot put with a personal best heave of 48-8.
“I’m happy for him,” Futrell said. “His first meet was ours (Mustang Relays on April 2). He wasn’t with us the whole season.”
And the Lady Mustangs’ 4×100-meter relay team was third in 49.0 seconds, its fastest fully automatic time of the season.
In some ways, the regional meet was cruel. Perhaps the most painful was the result of the 4×400-meter relay for the Lady Mustangs.
Sitting in third place in the team standings going into the relay, which was the final event of the meet, Marble Falls had been in this situation before. The runners knew they had to finish no worse than second to win the team title.
And they got the start they wanted, running in second place until the third exchange. Somehow, the baton was dropped. But Futrell credited his athletes for demonstrating the true spirit of sports. The baton was picked up and Marble Falls finished the race in 4:01.93 for fifth place.
“All of us are so tremendously proud and happy for these kids,” Futrell said. “They showed heart today because of the way they competed.”
He pointed out how Tess Johnson endured a physical and crowded run in the 800 meters.
“On her last 150 meters, she’s not going to win, and she’s not going to (advance),” he said. “She’s passing people and ran within a second of her best.”
Lauren Loader was suffering from a sore foot, which forced her to drop out of the 200 meters and the high jump, but was she able to run in both relays.
“She’s OK to run, she’s been getting treatment for it,” the coach said. “If it got to the point she was told not to run, we wouldn’t let her.”
Schulz and coaches decided it would be best for her to concentrate completely on the long jump, both hurdle events and the 4×400-meter relay, so she didn’t compete in the triple jump at the regional meet.
“We knew it was going to be a grind,” Futrell said. “She could have placed relatively high. But based on what she jumped (at the District 25-5A and District 25-26-5A meets), she would have finished fifth or sixth. We’re trying to calculate how we can score more points but not necessarily by competing in every event.”
Schulz was third in the long jump with a leap of 17-3¾ and is the first alternate for the state meet, while Loader was 14th with a mark of 15-10½.
Katelyn Rhodes cleared 5-0 to finish ninth in the high jump.
“Katelyn wishes she could have jumped higher,” Futrell said. “We’re proud of her. She jumped her personal best and scored for us at district and area.”
RESULTS: Boys — Discus: 2, Ryan Becker, 156-03; shot put: 6, Jacob Bryer, 48-8 (personal best).
Girls — 800: 12, Tess Johnson, 2:24.49; 100 hurdles: 2, Natalie Schulz, 15.43; 300 hurdles: 2, Schulz, 44.95 (personal best), 3, Sarah Lewis, 45.06 (personal best); 400 relay: 3, Marble Falls (Lewis, Lauren Loader, Schulz, Maddie Johnson, Sarah Cauble, Trinity Ware), 49.0; 1,600 relay: 5, Marble Falls (Loader, Schulz, M. Johnson, Lewis, Hagood, T. Johnson), 4:01.93; high jump: 9, Kaitlyn Rhodes, 5-0; long jump: 3, Schulz, 17-3¾, 14, Loader, 15-10½
UP NEXT: May 15, Class 5A state meet. Ryan Becker in the discus at 2 p.m. and Natalie Schulz in the 100-meter hurdles at 6:45 p.m. and 300-meter hurdles at 8:45 p.m. The meet is at Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin, 707 Clyde Littlefield Drive in Austin.