PRICE — Three of the four members of Carlisle’s relay teams a year ago got a taste of the regional track meet and narrow miss on a trip to the state track meet trip in Austin.
Nothing has stopped the Indians this season for taking that next, not even the fact that there’s not a track to run on at Carlisle High School.
“This is it, this is where we practice,” senior Kyle Smith said, pointing to two lanes painted down the field at Arrowhead Stadium. “It’s a lot different than a track but we’re fine with it.”
Added Max Jackson, who was also a part of Carlisle’s regional meet team a year ago: “It’s definitely harder running on the grass compared to a track but we’ve got used to it. This is where we learned and worked all year.”
At Carlisle, it’s more about the end result than where the process occurred.
“As far as helping, I don’t know about that,” Carlisle track coach Clay Baker said with a laugh. “The kids, you would think they would complain but they’re used to it and don’t know any better.”
Monday was the first time all season, outside of competing in meets, that the Indians practiced on an actual track surface, having made the short trip to Troup for a session.
“They suck it up, they’re used to it and they’ve embraced it,” Baker said of practicing at home where exchange zones and acceleration points are painted on the field.
“A few weeks ago we painted some gold around the arrows to make it look nicer,” Baker added.
Getting back to regionals and taking it one step further was all that was on the Indians’ mind.
Joining Jackson and Smith on the two relay teams qualified for state — the 400-meter and 800-meter relay — are juniors Gerald Turner and Jaylen Price. Junior Jay Tittle rounds out the team as well as alternate Jamion Turner.
“It’s been a fun and exciting season so far,” Jackson said. “We had a few injuries and a few things we had to overcome.
“We took care of business, did what we had to do and now we’re here and ready to go.”
Baker, who said it’s the first time in recent memory that Carlisle sent two relay teams to state, said that last year’s narrow miss, a fifth-place finish at regionals, has prepared the Indians for this season.
“We hit some adversity early on this year with our anchor leg going down in the third meet of the year with a season-ending injury,” Baker said. “We knew we had a chance to be pretty good coming into this season but at that point, we had some race offs and we didn’t know how it was going to turn out.
“The three guys (Jackson, Smith, Turner) that we had coming back really stepped up for us. Then, Price and Tittle have done an awesome job. Our times have continued to get better at every meet and even from the regional semifinals to the finals, they knocked off time.”
Carlisle enters the 400-meter relay with a 43.09 qualifying time from the regional meet, a season-best for the Indians. That puts the Indians fifth in the qualifying times, led by Abernathy with a 42.80. The 400-meter relay is set for a 5 p.m. start time on Saturday.
Such is the case in the 800-meter relay with the Indians entering with a season-best 1:30.52, placing them fifth in the field, led by Panhandle with a 1:29.59. That run is set for a 6:30 p.m. start on Saturday.
“Last year, they were just happy to make it to regionals but this year, it’s a whole other mentality,” Baker said. “They told me a time they were going to run in the regional semifinals and they nailed it.
“In the finals, it was the same thing.”
On top of making the trip to the state track meet, Jackson, Price and Smith will all suit up for the Indians in the Class 2A baseball playoffs on Friday. Carlisle will meet James Bowie in a one-game area round playoff at 6 p.m. in Marshall.
From a football field with a couple of lines painted on it to the state’s top stage at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium, nothing has slowed down the Carlisle Indians.
“It’s a dream come true,” Smith said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we’ve been working all season to get to this point.”