by MOSES LEOS III
Hays CISD will be well represented at the upcoming UIL State Track and Field meet at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin, as three athletes will compete against some of the state’s best.
Hays sophomore pole vaulters Meagan Gray and Rebekah Pogue, and Lehman senior high jumper Ariana Gallegos all advanced after a rainy and cold Regional competition on April 26 and 27 at Alamo Stadium.
All three found the conditions at the Regional track meet a challenge in their respective sports. Both pole vaulters had difficulty measuring their marks – the number of steps they take prior to planting their pole in the launch box.
“It was a pretty bad situation,” said Pogue. “Our marks were slipping and moving because of the rain.”
Gusty 15- to 23-mile per hour winds and slick track conditions also created problems for all three athletes.
“Windy conditions are never good, because it can knock the bar off and force you to redo your jump,” Gallegos said.
The inability to obtain sound traction on the track became an issue, particularly for the pole vaulters, who must travel down a lengthy runway at top speed before vaulting.
Yet it was the cold that made the largest impact, as temperatures reached no higher than 66 degrees. “If you are cold, you are tense and you cannot jump at the best of your ability,” Gallegos said.
Despite the challenge, all three qualified for the State competition and said they are eager to compete on the big stage.
Getting to this point has been an exercise in progression for Hays’ Gray. Since seventh grade, Gray has been involved in pole vaulting, going to and attending meets across the country, including the Junior Olympics. The lessons learned from those experiences have helped her grow as a pole vaulter.
“Meagan has gymnastics background and speed, which are big attributes (in pole vault),” said Kris Allison, owner of Lone Star Pole Vault out of New Braunfels and personal coach for Gray and Pogue. Allison has coached numerous Hays pole vault athletes over the past decade, including State champions Jessica Doyle and Britni Lawerence. “Meagan has progressed through many different poles and her technique has really started to come around.”
According to Allison, Gray’s ability to grow from the analytical side of vaulting has aided her in the latter portion of her career.
Thus, the sophomore is no stranger to performing on the big stage. In March, she competed at Myers stadium in the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, finishing tenth with at a height of 12’00.75”. The experience of performing at that competition is something she hopes will aid her in her quest for a state title.
“Jumping at same stadium helps a lot, as it gives me an idea of where the wind is coming from. I also know how fast the runway is,” said Gray. “This year, there were a few athletes that competed at Texas Relays that are competing at State. That will help me because I know how they approach their jumps.”
Like Gray, Pogue started pole vault during middle school, but did not truly begin in the sport until her eighth grade year. From that point, she has grown and progressed. However, according to Allison, where Gray is a “daredevil” pole-vaulter, Pogue’s approach is purely analytical.
“Rebekah is very analytical when it comes to vaulting. She has a tendency to over-think things,” Allison said. “The fear of being injured, the fear of failure have held her back in previous years. It is difficult for athletes that run into those psychological hurdles to overcome them. Rebekah has overcome quite a bit.”
Overcoming injury and bad luck have been obstacles Pogue has had to work beyond in the last year. After healing from a stress fracture in her back suffered from the strain of pole vaulting, Pogue was involved in a November 2012 car accident that left her with a concussion.
Pogue was able to persevere beyond those trials, but had bad luck strike again in the Regional meet. Before the meet began, Pogue had five of her warm-up poles taken away, as they did not meet the required weight rating. Despite the series of setbacks, Pogue was able to hit 11’6” at Regionals to qualify for State.
“I am really excited, as I did not expect to make it to State,” said Pogue, who understood just how much she has overcome.
Both Hays athletes also said training with Allison has been a tremendous help because the competitive atmosphere Allison brings to his gym motivates athletes to perform their best.
Ultimately, both athletes hope to perform well and set new personal records. While winning remains a high goal, nothing will replace the chance to set new heights.
“I want to win, but if I can break 12 feet, especially with all of the setbacks I’ve had, that is what will make me the most proud,” Pogue said.
“I may not win, but I want to place,” Gray said. “I want to beat my personal record and fix anything with my technique. As long as I fix what I need to fix, that is what really matters.”
While tradition fuels the Hays pole vaulting duo, Lehman senior high jumper Ariana Gallegos is forging a new path for Lady Lobos athletics. Gallegos, who recently signed her letter of intent to play basketball at Crowder College, becomes the first high jumper in school history to reach the State level.
“I’m super excited,” said Gallegos. “Especially now that I get to tell everyone that I finally made it to State.”
The road for Gallegos has not always been a smooth one. Ankle injuries have hindered her ability to advance to the pinnacle of high school track competition. Yet, sheer determination, as well as instruction from her coaches, has fueled Gallegos.
“I did not get to finish (the track season) in my freshman and sophomore years due to injuries,” she said. “It is an unexpected, yet good, surprise.”
Starting in seventh grade helped her progress.
“I never thought I would stick with high jump through high school. But I’m glad that I did. I now get the opportunity to go to State,” Gallegos said.
The goal at State for Gallegos goes beyond simply winning and losing. The chance to better personal records, as well as perform on a big stage in her final competitive high school track meet are most important.
“I really want to break my personal record, which is 5’4,” Gallegos said. “I think I can easily hit 5’6” if I work hard enough. All in all, if I can set a new personal record, that is what matters most to me.”
All three athletes will be competing Friday in Austin.