The crowd did not have to hear the words from the announcer at the UIL State Track meet to know that the WO-S Mustang Boys track team won the meet and became the first ever Track and Field State Champions at West Orange-Stark.

While the eight 3A 4×4 relay teams were preparing to run, he had already informed the crowd that the Mustangs were in first place with 58 points, while Waco LaVega was sitting in second with 44 points. LaVega could take the title with a first or second place finish in the 4×4 race.

The Mustangs, having concluded their competitions about midway through the meet, had to hold on and hope that the cards fell in their favor, or at least two other teams could beat LaVega in the race. However, LaVega was highly favored for one of the top two spots, coming into the race with the third top regional qualifying time in the state.

The crowd watched as LaVega led the race in one of the top two spots, even into the last handoff, but about 100m into the last lap, something went wrong for the Pirates and right for the Mustangs. Cuero had the lead, with LaVega trailing, and then, Kennedale came up and took second, and the rest of the pack passed up LaVega on the last curve, leaving no doubt in the Mustang track teams’ mind who was actually the 2009 3A State Champions. In fact, the celebrating began before Cuero or Kennedale ever crossed the finish line.

The Mustangs, who have had a great season, with many obstacles to conquer, brought home three gold medals, a silver and a fifth place finish to take the title.

At the beginning of the track season, even before the first track meet, anyone that spoke with Head Track Coach Toby Foreman knew that he felt that this team could win the state title. And though he faced many obstacles, including the Swine Flu, losing two track coaches that weren’t replaced, a couple of injuries and out of date facilities, he held on to that instinct that told him, if he just kept on and the kids kept on, the title was theirs for the taking.

“The entire season was an overall success. From the first track meet, we’ve competed at the highest level,” Foreman said. “The kids worked hard from the very beginning and I knew that this was a special group.”

This special group began at district with about twenty-one male participants. Sixteen of the twenty-one qualified for regionals with five of those moving on to the state level. Of those five, four have family members who have competed at the state track meet.

“We set a goal early on to win the state track meet and we just kept focused on our goal, even when there were problems,” junior James Haynes said. “Every time we ran, we were running with our goal in mind.”

Haynes began the state track meet long jumping on Friday. He finished fifth in the long jump, out jumping Silsbee’s Jeremy Johnson who beat him at the regional level. Haynes jumped a 22’7 ¾ over Johnson’s 21’4 ¾. From there, it was all uphill.

Coming into the 4×1, the Mustangs had the best regional qualifying time with a 41.78, with nemesis Waco LaVega sitting right on their heels with a 42.02.

“I knew coming into the state meet that our biggest competition would be Waco LaVega,” Foreman said. “They were with us at regionals and they can flat out fly. I figured it would be us, them and Abilene Wylie.”

Senior Josh Gloston led off for the Mustangs and by the time he hit the first hand-off, junior Trey Franks, he had already caught the Brookshire Royal guy in lane eight. Franks just kept the lead and a great hand-off to sophomore Phillip Jones kept the Mustangs in first. Jones’ hand-off to Haynes was picture perfect as the junior cruised to a season best finish at 41.31, with LaVega trailing at 41.84.

Gloston, who checked in with his third trip to the state meet, was all smiles when he saw Haynes pass the finish line first. He knew that he had finally earned his gold medal, something he wanted as much as the diploma that he received only eight days before.

“Each year has been special with the medals I’ve won, but this year, was it, and to come away with the gold and be named State Champions, there’s nothing like it,” the quiet Gloston said.

Haynes, too, was elated with the finish. It was just last year, in the same race, that Haynes was in the lead and fell to fourth place as his nagging hamstring injury got the best of him.

 “I knew we could do it. I just felt it going into the race and knew if our hand-offs were good and we executed like we have all season, that we could finish first,” Haynes said.

After receiving their medals and a quick photo shoot, the four headed back to prepare for their next races. Jones had less than 30 minutes before his next race, the 110 hurdles. At the regional meet, Jones, whose shoe came off right after the seventh hurdle, placed second behind Crockett’s JaGerad Davis by only .01 seconds.

Jones qualified with a 14.76, while Davis qualified with a 14.75.

After a false start by Davis, Jones reset himself in the blocks, lowered his head and when the gun went off, hit the track, beating Goliad’s Aron Franklin, who entered the state meet with the best qualifying time of 14.41. Jones walked away with the gold medal, putting his team closer to the goal of a state title in track and also setting a new school record.

“After winning the 4×1, I just felt that I could relax and run my race, and that’s what I did,” Jones said. “I’m just so happy to win two golds as a sophomore.”

Franks only had a few more minutes than Jones to prepare, but unlike Jones, he had two races left, and they were back to back.
“I knew that I could go out there and give it my best, even though it was hot and the races were so close together,” Franks said.

Give it his best is just an understatement as Franks took off out of the blocks in the 100m race and finished with a 10.36, .29 seconds over Adam Hebert of Poteet who entered the race with the best qualifying time of 10.71. (Franks qualifying time was 10.73.) Franks ended his 100m season, never losing a race and one-tenth of a second from the state meet record. He also set a school record, running a 10.15 at an earlier meet.

“I knew going in that it would be between the guy from Poteet and me. He has a strong start, where I usually have a strong finish,” Franks said. “I gained the lead about half way through and I knew that I had it.”

Franks went straight to the awards stand, took his medal and picture and returned to the field to anchor the very next race, the 4×2, where the team came in with, yet again, the fastest qualifying time at 1.27.08 over LaVega’s 1.27.41.

The 4×2 team drew lane one, which is basically the catch-up lane until the last 100m, but they didn’t let that stop them. Again, Gloston started the race, handing off to sophomore Ed Ivory. Ivory took the baton to Haynes, who handed off to Franks. Appearing in fifth place, Franks took the baton and by the time he rounded the curve, had only Waco LaVega and Dallas Madison to catch.  Franks passed Dallas Madison about 10m before the finish line, but didn’t quite catch LaVega, who were in lane six. WO-S finished 1.27.02 behind their 1.26.91. That time was the same exact time as their 2008 state finish, where two of the four ran, receiving a silver behind Cuero.

“I’m so proud of our kids and what they have accomplished. Not only did they take care of things on the track, but they took care of things in the classroom,” Foreman said. “Academically, they went to tutorials and just worked hard in the class room and with their grades. You just can’t ask for better than that.”

Although the girls team didn’t bring home any medals at the state meet, just to be there was a huge accomplishment. Last year, the girls only scored 24 points at the district meet, with not even enough for a girls relay team. This year, two of the three relay teams made it to state, where they placed sixth in the 4×1 relay, running a 49.15, which is a new school record, and seventh in the 4×2 relay, running a 1.44.39.

The girls future looks bright with all four runners returning-juniors Brittney Brantley and Hannah Mobley and sophomores Johnesha Sims and Danyale Thomas.

“From the first track meet, the girls were competitive and continued to get better,” Foreman said. “It is unbelievable, going from not enough for relay teams to two relay teams at state in one year. Next year, we plan to compete in all races at district, competing for a district, regional and state title.”

As for the one senior on the team, Gloston, he will be truly missed-not only by his coaches and teammates, but by this sports writer. He has been the light in many dark days with his beautiful smile and quiet personality.

“This was his third time to compete at state. He went as a freshman as an alternate on the 4×2 but didn’t compete,” Foreman said. “He is irreplaceable and I have enjoyed being with him his entire career in football and track.”