SAN ANTONIO — Weslaco High girls track coach Pablo Almaguer described runner Amity Ebarb as a special athlete that only comes around once in awhile. That’s quite the statement considering the type of runners that have come through the program in recent years.
When Ebarb was an eighth-grader, however, he saw her as a work in progress.
“During her eighth-grade year, I was at her district track meet,” Almaguer said. “I was standing next to my assistant coach and the first thing I told him was, ‘That little girl has something we can work with.’ She wasn’t winning races, believe it or not, but she runs so smooth. She did things with such ease. That bounce on her toes was awesome to see. We knew we had a diamond in the rough.”
The Panthers’ sophomore diamond shone brightest on Day 2 at the 2019 UIL Region IV track meet in San Antonio. Ebarb competed in three races — the 400-meter dash, 800-meter dash, 4×400-meter relay — and she won or was a part of all three gold medal-winning races for Weslaco High.
“It takes a lot of rest,” Ebarb said. “After each event, you have to, not just physically regroup, but mentally regroup yourself as well. You have to start thinking about each event one at a time.”
“She hasn’t stopped since the end of cross country season,” Almaguer said. “We were going to ease her into the 800-meter run this year. Right from her first meet, she was able to crack 2 minutes, 20 seconds. We talked about it and she decided that she could do it.”
Ebarb won the 800-meter run (2:11.74) by shaving more than a second from her previous personal best of 2:13.1 seconds. She went on to take the 400-meter dash title in dominating fashion with a time of 55.44 seconds.
Ebarb’s 400-meter time also set a Valley record. The old record belonged to Kathy Treviño of Rio Grande City, who finished third at the 2008 UIL Class 4A state meet in 55.90 seconds.
“I feel great and accomplished, but I still feel determined to do better at state, next year and the year after,” Ebarb said. “I still have two more years.”
Ebarb ended her Saturday as the anchor of Weslaco High’s 4×400-meter relay team. The combination of Ebarb, sophomore Emma Arndt, junior Jenna Martinez and senior Lisamarie Sanchez won the relay in 3:54.12 seconds.
“I was very confident with our group, even though we haven’t run Lisamarie (Sanchez) since the Meet of Champions three weeks ago,” Almaguer said. “We knew once we would put her back on, we’d get back to running to what we were capable of running. I told the girls that they were ready to run at 3:56 because we usually run it at under 3:55.”
The odds weren’t completely against Miguel Flores, but the PSJA High junior had an outside chance to break into the state meet in the 400-meter dash.
Flores entered Thursday with the fourth-fastest seed time in the 400 at 50.36 seconds. His time was behind McAllen High’s Alejandro Rodriguez (50.21), New Braunfels’ Bryson Dyer (50.03) and Converse Judson’s Richard Kuykendoll (49.09).
Flores improved his standing in the prelims with the third-best time (49.40), but he still trailed Kuykendoll (48.60) and Rodriguez (49.03) coming into Saturday’s final race.
“We had been chasing Alejandro Rodriguez from McHi all year,” PSJA High boys track coach Mike Fernandez said. “And Mike (Flores) is relatively new at running the 400. He was in lane three and we had Judson (Kuykendoll) and McHi (Rodriguez) in front of us. We knew we’d be in position coming through the back stretch. We wanted a chance to fight and kick for that second spot. That’s what we were thinking.”
The best thing for Flores and Fernandez is that everything did not all go according to plan. Flores did have a late kick, but he pulled ahead and crossed the finish line first with a time of 48.18.
“I took advantage of the last 300 meters,” Flores said. “When Kuykendoll (of Converse Judson) pulled, I thought to myself, ‘I can do this.’ So I kicked it, went all out and got first place. I was able to find that extra juice.”
After Flores crossed the finish line, he dropped to the track. His emotions seemed to be hitting him all at once.
“I’m still in shock. I’m not going to sleep tonight,” Flores said. “Starting Monday, I’ll start training again and see what I can do at state.”
Rio Grande City junior Daniella Muniz was already a state qualifier entering Day 2 at Heroes Stadium.
Muniz placed second in the long jump with a jump of 18 feet, 3 inches on Friday, but she still had two other events to compete in Saturday: the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.
“It just pushes me harder to qualify in another event,” Muniz said.
Muniz took fifth in the 200, but she earned second place in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.36 seconds.
“My plan was to get off the blocks faster and push because it’s the finals,” Muniz said. “This (making state) has been one of my goals for the longest time.”
“During her freshman year, you could tell she was nervous. Even last year, she was a little bit nervous also,” Rio Grande City girls track coach Andy Lopez said. “She was prepared this year. She knew what she was stepping into. Her times have improved a lot over the past three years. She was excited more than anything. Her attitude was all about doing what she had been doing.”
Edcouch-Elsa’s Vanessa Cerda earned second place in the Class 5A 800-meter run (2:16.11). … Sharyland Pioneer needed a late surge to slide into second and last state qualifying spot in the Class 5A 110-meter hurdles (14.74). … PSJA Memorial senior Cruz Gomez (4:19.05) edged out Austin Johnson’s Charles Albach (4:19.76) to win the Class 5A 1600-meter run. … McAllen Memorial’s Evan Williams held on to second to qualify for the Class 6A 1600-meter run with a time of 4:21.10. … Brownsville Rivera’s Julian Tavares won the Class 6A 800-meter run (1:54.42). … McAllen Memorial’s Susana Swanson took home the gold in the wheelchair division’s 100-meter dash (22.00) and 400-yard dash (1:35.71). … Harlingen High’s Jose Garcia set the regional meet record when he won the Class 6A 100-meter dash in 10.43 seconds.